Dinkydome development faces scrutiny

by Anna Ewart

It could be all or nothing for developers who want to renovate the Dinkydome and put a 13-story addition directly behind it.

The City Planning Commission denied Doran Development’s requests to rezone and grant variances on June 16 . The requested addition would be a housing complex, but would also have space for retail on the bottom floor.

The commission found that the building would be too tall and dense for the site, and would conflict with Dinkytown’s character. Kelly Doran, chief manager of Doran Development , said the addition needs to be big to generate revenue to pay for costly renovations of the older Dinkydome building.

The Dinkydome would not be converted to housing under the $60-million plan , but Doran said it would have to invest $4 million for renovations that could include fixing the building’s roof and making it handicapped-accessible.

The renovations and addition would be called off entirely if the City Council denies Doran’s appeal later this summer, Doran said.

“If the City Council denies the project then we’re done,” Doran said. “The project goes away.”

Doran said a smaller project is not financially feasible.

The fate of small businesses in the Dinkydome is also up in the air, though Doran said their leases will be honored and current tenants have the option to move into the new retail space.

Mike Kuo owns Hong Kong Express and Bobaboca Tea & Cafe in the Dinkydome.

Although he said he thinks Doran’s plans could improve the building, he said he would have to move downstairs to stay in business. He’d prefer not to spend money on moving and remodeling, he said.

“I want to stay just like this,” Kuo said.

The Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association ‘s land use committee approved of the company’s plans , but its executive committee did not .

Jo Radzwill, chairwoman of the land use committee , said it is the size of the development that is causing most of the problems, but there are a number of other concerns.

“We really would like for that development to fit in with the area around,” Radzwill said.

Concerns include the Dinkydome’s historic nature, reduced parking in Dinkytown and the possibility of students moving out of rental homes in neighborhoods to live in a 13-story apartment complex, she said.

Ryan Ahlberg , an attorney representing the Chi Psi (Lodge) fraternity property next to the Dinkydome, said the addition would not fit in with existing buildings in the area.

The development would encroach on the fraternity’s side yard, Ahlberg said. It would be right on the property line, putting it about 15 feet away from the fraternity if Doran is allowed to rezone and granted variances.

“We don’t oppose redevelopment,” Ahlberg said. “But we don’t think that development is appropriate unless they comply with existing zoning.”