Apartment proposal has U, neighborhoods concerned

The complex would go near the Stone Arch Bridge and a University of Minnesota steam plant.

A proposal to build apartments near the north end of the Stone Arch Bridge on the Mississippi riverfront has the city of Minneapolis and the developers in a standstill, with concerns from the University of Minnesota and Marcy-Holmes residents caught in the fray. The development is the second phase of the Stone Arch Apartments. The first phase opened in 2003 to 96-units at 600 S.E. Main St. The next phase seeks to get city approval for an additional 79-unit building across Main Street on a triangle-shaped parcel that lies close to the University of Minnesota steam plant. Currently, the plot is zoned to allow about a 40-unit apartment complex. But Steve Minn and John Wall of Bluff Street Development âÄî the company seeking to build the apartments âÄî are requesting permission to build up to 79 units. At a Zoning and Planning meeting last Thursday, the committee decided to push the issue straight on to the full council, which has the final word on the property on July 31. City planning staff recommended against approving an increase, citing a concern about having high-density housing on the riverfront, planner Jim Voll said. The project is within the University District Moratorium , which restricts the demolition, new construction or establishment of single-, two- and multi-family residential dwellings with three or four units in the area. However, the project is not subject to the moratorium, as it has more than four dwelling units, according to city documents. But that has not kept the UniversityâÄôs concerns at bay, which include placing a residential facility next door to a traffic-heavy, noisy industrial facility. The University steam plant near the proposed complex generates virtually all of the heating and cooling and some of the power for the East and West Bank campuses, University spokeswoman Jan Morlock said. âÄúItâÄôs a critical facility for the operation of the University,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs not a facility that would be relocated.âÄù Since the steam plant is staying put, the University wants the city to require that the developers take measures to reduce noise before building. âÄúBy placing residents right next to a major industrial facility there are risks âĦ we want to take precautions so the residents and the [University] donâÄôt suffer later if there is a problem,âÄù she said. Earlier this year the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association also came out against the development, requesting that the council deny a 96-unit complex on the same site. While the council ultimately denied the request, the association is still not satisfied with the new proposal for a 79-unit complex. Melissa Bean, president of the association, said they want the city to stick to its master plan but would not comment further. This master plan could include using the land as a park space. Developer Wall thinks that is the root of the issue with the city. âÄúThis whole discussion has really been about the neighborhoodâÄôs ardent desire to see this site become a park,âÄù he said. Residents and neighborhood groups have gone to the Minneapolis Park Board and asked them to purchase the site, but Dawn Sommers , spokeswoman for the board, said she knows there is no money for such a purchase. Wall said they would be willing to sell the land, but he doesnâÄôt think there is a serious buyer out there. âÄúInstead of waiting around to sell we want to build a building,âÄù he said. âÄúWe are totally confident when all the dust settles âĦ the neighborhoods are going to say itâÄôs a nice upgrade,âÄù Wall said, adding that they have considerably cleaned up the site since they acquired it about 10 years ago. âÄúMost people donâÄôt want change,âÄù Wall said. âÄúI just wish we had more support.âÄù