Developers of 26-story apartment tower pitched for Marcy-Holmes successfully appeal denial

Minneapolis Planning Commission approved plans for the 372-unit apartment complex last week

by Carter Blochwitz

Plans for a large-scale development project in Marcy-Holmes are now moving forward after developers successfully appealed a denial from the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission.

The proposal for a 26-story apartment tower and other low-rise apartment buildings was approved by the Minneapolis City Planning Commission last week after developers made changes to its design. The development, which would occupy an entire city block, has drawn criticism from neighborhood residents for its size relative to nearby buildings.

The Expo, a 372-unit apartment complex proposed near St. Anthony Main nearly a year ago by developers Doran Companies and CSM Corporation, will now enter a 10-day appeal period before the commission’s decision is final. The proposal was initially denied in October 2017 by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission due to issues with the height and appearance of the tower.

Revised plans for the apartment complex along University Avenue Southeast added a story to the tower while narrowing its width, and changed material and color palettes for the now six-story L-shaped apartment building that would span the corner of 2nd Street and 3rd Avenue Southeast. Townhomes are still proposed to run between the tower and low-rise apartment building.

Plans for significant retail space, underground parking and a handful of affordable housing units within the complex were also outlined at the meeting.

Despite the successful appeal, residents of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood remain concerned with the height and presence of the tower structure.

Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said many of the neighborhood suggestions had been met, though the height of the tower did not align with the previous 18-story maximum suggested by the MHNA.

Others at the meeting, like Marcy-Holmes resident Jonathan Moore, a park ranger with the National Park Service, believed the tower should not exceed the height of the neighboring Red Tile Elevator, which stands above all other structures in the area at 17 stories. Moore said he feared the tower’s height would spoil the historic St. Anthony Main skyline.

Moore and other speakers pointed to City and neighborhood comprehensive plans to argue against the size of the proposed project.

“The Expo Tower is in clear violation of the City’s comprehensive plan,” said Erich Wunderlich, a Marcy-Holmes resident. “The Red Tile Elevator and other similarly tall structures were explicitly not to be used as a precedent for development.”

Kelly Doran, founder of Doran Companies, attempted to ease concerns about the tower’s height by showing several digital representations of the tower superimposed in the skyline.

Peter Crandall, senior city planner for the City of Minneapolis, said the final construction approval process would likely take around two months before Doran and CSM could break ground.

“Doran Companies and CSM Corporation share a long-standing commitment to the Twin Cities,” said CSM Corporation’s CEO Gary Holmes in a press release. “We are looking forward to breaking ground later this year and bringing this vision to life.”