Apartment complex slated for Grandma’s location

The city has approved plans for the development of a new apartment complex at the former GrandmaâÄôs Saloon & Grill location on the West Bank. Minneapolis Venture owns the property at 1800 to 1814 Washington Ave. S which, barring financing setbacks, will be the site of the 25-story, 360-unit complex. Minneapolis-based Alatus is the managing partner for the project, which the city council approved Nov. 3. Construction should begin in February or March next year, with the project being complete in time for the 2010-11 school year. David Hunt, a manager at Alatus , said it will be a $75 million to $100 million project, and the company is still in the process of obtaining sufficient financing. âÄúThe only thing that could keep this thing from going would be the financing,âÄù he said. Hunt said in these economic times, projects like this are not a guarantee and a lot of projects have died recently due to lack of financing. Hunt estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the units would be intended for people associated with the University of Minnesota. He said units will range from $700 to $1,200 per room. Because the complex will be one block from a light-rail station, Hunt said he expects interest from people who work downtown as well as from University students and faculty. Hunt said the first floor will contain 5,550 square feet of retail space, primarily on the corner of Washington and 19th avenues south. Mark Johnson, president of the West Bank Business Association, said this will make the project more viable because it will keep the streetscape alive and there wonâÄôt be empty space. Doris Wickstrom, chairwoman of the West Bank Community CoalitionâÄôs land use committee , said the coalition supports the project, with certain stipulations. The coalition wants Alatus to support local park restoration, specifically the Bluff Street Park, which was a staging site for Interstate 35W bridge workers. Hunt said Alatus will help with the parksâÄô restoration if other local entities also contribute to the cause. Wickstrom said she was the only person who had concerns about the height of the building. âÄúThe job of the land-use committee is to get input from residents, particularly those most affected by it, and thatâÄôs not what they brought up,âÄù she said. Kathleen OâÄôBrien, vice president of University Services , said the University wants affordable housing for professional and graduate students. OâÄôBrien said development in the University district is different from the rest of the metro area. âÄúThis community is viewed as being a solid housing market compared to the rest of the metro area,âÄù OâÄôBrien said. Hunt said 1810 University Ave. is the unofficial name of the complex, and that it needs a name that isnâÄôt âÄúGrandmaâÄôs.âÄù He also said there will be a new rendering of what the complex will look like in coming weeks.