Quarrel ensues over new housing proposal

by Jake Kapsner

A proposal to develop student housing near Dinkytown could offer respite in a time of University housing burdens, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better to neighborhood residents opposing the project.
Developer A.G. Mueller looks to build a 56-unit apartment building to house 200 students on his property at the corner of 14th Avenue Southeast and Sixth Street Southeast.
But Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association members voted against the project May 5, citing concerns that the building will increase population density, exacerbate parking problems and disrupt the area’s architectural character because of its size.
“It’s totally out of place,” said association president Jan Morse. “Imagine this development plopped down in the neighborhood.”
The design’s typical apartment has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and commons area. Preliminary estimates for bedrooms range from $350 to $400 apiece, said Thomas Van Housen, the architect who designed the project.
Van Housen said the structure is compatible with the neighborhood because other high density buildings already exist in the area, such as the Chateau on the western side of Dinkytown.
The development will also help boost the local economy, Van Housen said, because more people means more business.
University Housing and Residential Life director Mary Ann Ryan said there is a need for more student housing.
She also stressed that the development process requires sufficient time to study community impact issues.
Some opposing members criticized the aesthetic plans for the building, which they say is too big for the area.
“It’s like putting a big dorm right in the middle of that neighborhood,” said University student Ahne Hall, a board member who opposed the development.
Although the neighborhood association can voice its opposition to the project, Minneapolis planning and zoning officials have the final word.
Morse said the association would support a smaller development and asked Mueller and Van Housen to scale back the proposed building from five to three stories.
Van Housen said a low-density project simply wouldn’t pay for itself because of costly property values.
But conflicts between local neighborhood associations and developers are nothing new, said councilwoman Joan Campbell, whose ward includes the proposed development.
Prospect Park residents encountered a similar situation with Dunbar Development Corp., last year when the company proposed to build the University Village student housing complex at 2515 University Ave. S.E. After negotiations, Dunbar took suggestions from residents and Minneapolis officials before breaking ground on the site in April.