Lowry Grove redevelopment proposal rejected by St. Anthony


A proposal to redevelop the property long known as Lowry Grove into many high-density apartment buildings was denied by St. Anthony Oct. 10. Residents expressed concerns about the plan’s density for the site that was once a mobile home park. submitted image

The property in question, in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue, is bordered by varying types of land uses, including high density, commercial and single family. The St. Anthony City Council denied a plan to redevelop the site with high-density housing Oct. 10. submitted image

The St. Anthony City Council unanimously voted to reject a re-worked proposal for the redevelopment of the Lowry Grove property, despite the owner’s efforts to address concerns from residents.

The decision came during the council’s Oct. 10 meeting, much to the approval of the people in the packed council chambers.

Lowry Grove, previously home to a manufactured housing community for more than 70 years, was purchased for $6 million in the summer of 2016 by The Village, LLC. As laid out in its proposal, The Village aims to put five apartment-like buildings on the property and line a portion of the site with two-story townhomes.

Addressing some but not all feedback — mostly regarding concerns about the increased density such a development would bring to the area — The Village eliminated more than 100 units from its original plan, attempting to allay those concerns. 

The Village did that by reducing the height of three of the five planned buildings. According to the revised proposal documents, one of the buildings was reduced from five to four stories; another went from six to five stories — both of those buildings were proposed senior housing. A building planned to be affordable-housing apartments went from six to four stories. Plans for the market rate buildings were largely unchanged from plan to plan.

 

Not enough 

City Manager Mark Casey and city staff recommended the council deny The Village’s reworked 615-unit plan at the Oct. 10 meeting. Following a lengthy public hearing, council members followed city staff’s advice, saying the reduction in density wasn’t enough.

During the comment period, Monique Dubos, a resident of St. Anthony, said residents are looking for a plan with less density, closer to 25 units per acre, not 40, as outlined in The Village’s updated plan. 

“That’s still a lot of housing and that’s still a lot of people and cars,” Dubos said. 

“But it’s moving closer,” she added, explaining that the fewer the number of units, the better the project will align with what residents envision. 

While expressing support for The Village teaming up with Minneapolis-based equitable-housing nonprofit Aeon to purpose one of the buildings as affordable housing apartments, Dubos said, “I don’t believe it’s all up to this particular development to address all of the affordable housing needs that St. Anthony has.”

She suggested affordable housing should be spread out around the city. 

“I don’t think it should all be tied to Lowry Grove.”

After Dubos was finished speaking, she handed the council a petition that had approximately 830 signatures from residents in favor of the council rejecting the proposal. 

Several residents pointed out that the city’s 2008 comprehensive plan called for a maximum of 40 units per acre on the Lowry Grove site, once rezoned. However, The Village’s plan, put it at 41.4 units per acre.

“It is not adjacent to the urban core,” resident Carol Weiler said of the development, meaning the site doesn’t neighbor downtown Minneapolis. “It’s ubutting three single-family home neighborhoods.”

Weiler went on to list the many times residents expressed disapproval of the high density proposal — meeting after meeting — as well as the heights of the buildings, which outmatch the vast majority of the buildings in the surrounding area. 

The property in question, in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue, is bordered by varying types of land uses, including high density, commercial and single family. 

“Twenty-five units per acre is high-density living, as is 40. It’s a range and it starts at 25,” resident Thomas Isaacson said. “For this site, the land use along 2,240 feet of the property boundary is single family residential; only about 920 abuts high density and about 340 abuts commercial.”

Isaacson added, “This means that 65 percent of the property borders single-family residences, so the main surrounding land use that it must be compatible with is single family residences.” 

John Gervais, who lives in Minneapolis but just blocks away from Lowry Grove, expressed concerns of heavier traffic and safety issues.

Many other aspects of the proposed project were critiqued by residents, such as the townhomes overcrowding the existing alley north of the property. The landscaping was questioned, specifically in regards to whether the size of the boulevards would support growing healthy trees as planned. 

One point that bubbled up several times during the meeting was that of character — that the development would change the character of the neighborhood and the city.

“Density dramatically affects traffic, parking and impact on infrastructure,” Isaacson said. “Additionally, density also dramatically affects St. Anthony’s self image as that of a village, with pleasant and intimate neighborhoods, with safe and quiet streets.”

 

Council agrees

“I have a lot of concerns about the proposal right now, the way it is,” said council member Hal Gray. “We are for a project that’s going to fit in this community, that’s what we want.”

Council member Randy Stille shared some thoughts specifically concerning residents’ comments about the lack of affordable housing in the suburb, saying that “trying to shame the City of St. Anthony for its lack of affordable housing is ridiculous.” 

He called the issue a “regional problem and national problem, it’s not an acute St. Anthony problem.”

He went on to agree with Gray that The Village’s proposal does not fit in with the community.

“Right now, I don’t like the way this has gone,” Stille said of the proposal. “We’ve been listening and listening and listening, and I hear you.”

Council member Jan Jenson and Mayor Jerry Faust joined Stille and Gray in voting to deny approval, and the project is back to the drawing board. 

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815



 

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