Apartments planned for church site

University Lutheran Chapel is raising funds to fight relocation.

Apartments planned for church site

Nick Sudheimer

Plans for another apartment building near the University of Minnesota are moving forward.

On Thursday, Doran Companies heard concerns from the Minneapolis City Planning Commission about its proposed five-story, 94-unit apartment building at 1101 University Ave., where the University Lutheran Chapel currently stands.

Aspects of the plan, like its size and design, are still under consideration. Commissioners asked Doran to return with revised plans in the near future.

Despite the project’s progress through city committees, the church is still raising money in hopes that it can somehow save its home.

Pastor David Kind said the church has raised roughly $200,000 through nationwide fundraising since the board of directors at the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which owns the Dinkytown building, voted to sell the property for $3.5 million in September.

“It’s very disheartening,” Kind said. “We’re still fighting the sale.”

Rev. Dr. Mark A. Noren, executive assistant to the president of the district, declined to comment on behalf of the district.

Kind said he’s happy with the amount the church has raised but hopes to raise more than $1 million before the sale officially closes by July 1.

“We obviously need to raise more money to help us either buy this place or relocate if we don’t have the opportunity to buy it,” Kind said.

He wasn’t aware of the meeting Thursday, and Jim LaValle, vice president of development for Doran, said he didn’t know the church was still fundraising.

Kind was quick to point out that the church’s issue is with church leadership and not Doran.

“[Doran is] just a business trying to make a buck, and we understand that,” he said.

Kind added that the church has looked at other locations in Dinkytown and near St. Paul in case it’s not able to purchase the land and has to relocate. But he said the church would like to stay close to campus so it can maintain its ministry with students.

LaValle said construction is scheduled to begin this summer and be complete for the beginning of the 2013 school year.

Commission concerns

Members of the planning commission asked Doran to move the proposed building farther from city sidewalks and to change the building design so it’s not as “boxy.” Commissioners also raised concerns about the size of the building.

Current zoning regulations restrict buildings to a height of 56 feet, or four stories. Doran’s plan calls for a 56-foot building with five stories. Commissioner Liz Wielinski said it’s unclear if Doran’s plan violates the zoning laws.

Sydney Hall, another Doran project, was originally planned to be as tall as 14 stories, but neighborhood concerns and finances forced Doran to scale it down to six.

Janelle Widmeier, city planner for the project, said the commission was also concerned about the total floor area of the building.

“It is quite a bit more than what’s allowed by the existing zoning,” she said.

LaValle said many city officials are supportive of the size. But he expects a number of changes to be made to the building design.

Commissioners also recommended that Doran, which also constructed 412 Lofts and is building The Edge on Oak, a six-story, 65-unit apartment building in Stadium Village, redesign the apartment to make it more visually appealing, Wielinski said.

“The plan presented to the commission was basically just a big square on the site,” Widmeier said.