Neighbors criticize ‘industrial’ apartments

by Koran Addo

After three years of pollution cleanup and complaints from neighbors, Stone Arch Apartments is now welcoming tenants.

The apartment complex on Main Street Southeast in Minneapolis sits between the University’s Southeast Steam Plant and a Metal-Matic factory. Both have been there for decades and were upset the building was constructed, fearing they would draw complaints from its tenants.

However, the apartment’s developers, Minneapolis Stone Arch Partners, defeated attempts to block its construction and have tried to incorporate the industrial setting into its architectural design.

Steve Minn, a principal developer working with Stone Arch Partners, said the apartments’ look is meant to fall in line with a national trend of placing industrial-style apartments in industrial areas.

“We embraced the industry,” Minn said, adding that the apartment style is popular in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

The trend includes stainless steel appliances, exposed piping and high ceilings.

“The notion of an apartment building that looks like a warehouse Ö has been a trend for a while,” architecture professor Steve Weeks said. “People were originally attracted to these style apartments because it was inexpensive to rent warehouse space as both a living and work area.”

John Wall, another Stone Arch Partners developer, said he loves the aesthetic value of the University’s steam plant, which is what many tenants will see when they look out their windows.

“I like to think of the steam plant as one of the best amenities,” he said.

University undergraduate Ben Beuchler said the industrial look was one of the reasons he and his wife chose the Stone Arch Apartments.

“I love that look. It’s very open,” Beuchler said.

But neighbors still have reservations.

“You’re going to have 600 people living next to the plant. Our security is going to have to change. All we can see is complaints,” said Terry Kalvestran, Metal-Matic’s engineering director.

Jerome Malmquist, the University’s Facilities Management departmental director, said he had similar reservations about security issues and possible complaints.

“There’s so many places to put housing. It’s beyond me why you would want to put housing there,” Malmquist said.

The property, located one block from the Mississippi River and Stone Arch Bridge, was unused and contaminated with pollution that had to be cleaned up before construction could begin.

“We thought it was an attractive site that had gone unnoticed,” Minn said. “We saw an opportunity to put affordable housing on the river and it was a chance to clean up a polluted area.”