M Flats plans to move into Prospect Park

To allow for the move, Osvold Company, a local business, might have to relocate.

Vadim Lavrusik

Ken Weikert didn’t know his career at an architectural millwork company is in jeopardy.

Until alerted Monday, Weikert, a sales estimator at Osvold Company on University Avenue Southeast, said he was unaware the co-owner of the business, Lorri Utoft, plans to move or sell Osvold to make room for M Flats, a future student condominium at the junction of University and 29th avenues southeast.

If Utoft sells the company, 24 of her employees could lose their jobs.

“It’s her prerogative – I’m just an employee, not an owner,” Weikert said.

Although the project recently hit a snag with city planners, first-phase construction of M Flats is still slated to begin in January.

“We’re a couple of months ahead of schedule,” said Tony Zosel, managing director of Multiply, the company hired to market the complex.

The possible move of the family-owned Osvold Company, which has been at its current location for more than 30 years, is an example of how the Prospect Park neighborhood is changing, said Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon, who represents the University and surrounding communities.

“The city sees University Avenue as a potential commercial corridor, and there is a lot of interest in keeping some vital commercial there,” Gordon said.

But he said the neighborhood also wants to see more dense housing, such as M Flats, along the avenue in anticipation of larger developments like the Central Corridor light rail transit line.

The first phase of the M Flats project will be built on the site of a recently-vacated automatic carwash.

The second phase of the project, which is awaiting approval from the city and includes 74 units, would rise on the Osvold property.

Utoft, whose father started Osvold in 1956, said most of her employees don’t know she is planning to move or sell the company. She gave no reason for not notifying them.

The move is “still uncertain, but there are things in the works,” she said.

Utoft said she is looking at properties in North Minneapolis for possible relocation and is considering her options.

Regardless of what happens with the company, Utoft said, M Flats will benefit many people in an area that lacks student housing.

Joe Ring, president of Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, said the owners of the Osvold Company never voiced any concerns to the association about moving.

“If Osvold didn’t want to move, and they had come to us, that would have come into consideration for our support of the project,” he said.

The Minneapolis Planning Commission held a public hearing Monday, addressing changes proposed for the project by M Flats developers.

The commission denied the developer’s plan to add more units and increase the building’s height.

Ring said commissioners probably thought the developers could have done a better job at meeting zoning code requirements.

“Because it is zoned commercial, the lack of commercial space seemed to bother the commissioners,” he said. “The proposed changes just didn’t jive with the planning commission.”

Ring said the association has been supportive of M Flats and feels developers have addressed all of the community’s concerns, he said.

The developers are going back to the drawing board and editing the first-phase designs to meet zoning code requirements, Zosel said. The edited plans, he said, will decrease the number of units from 68 to 56.

Zosel said the project is going to be very similar to U Flats, but will cost less because it is a little farther from campus.

“We are confident that it will sell out by the first of the year,” he said.