New Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender faces one of her first big challenges with the proposed redevelopment of the Franklin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue intersection.
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The project -- which would replace the surface parking lot, commercial properties, and Theatre Garage space currently on the southwest corner of the intersection with a glassy, six-floor mixed-use structure including 85 rental units, a rebuilt theater space, new commercial properties, and a large parking lot -- doesn't sit well with some neighbors. Concerns range from the architecture to the building's height to the project's density to increased congestion.
Bender told us she thinks the property "is a great place to redevelop" in part because of its location at the crossing of two major bus lines in an already dense part of town, but acknowledged there's still "a lot of questions" about the project she wants answered before she'll throw her support behind it.
"There are a lot of different opinions, but it's fair to say that most people want to see something new there," Bender said. "That may honestly be the only point of agreement."
Bender added that while she's "received a lot of communication in support of this project," she's also heard from many critics, some of whom express contradictory opinions. ("Some want it to be taller, and others want it to be shorter," she said.)
So how does a new council member navigate such difficult terrain?
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"I have to look at our city's adopted policies that are there to guide growth and change," Bender said. "I'm also thinking about our city's long-term success and absolutely about growing our population and growing our economy."
Earlier this week, Bender attended a neighborhood meeting about the proposal where many of the aforementioned criticisms were discussed.
"I think people are bringing up great questions about the design specifics, and it's important to work through that," Bender said, "People who live nearby know the area very well so I absolutely think it's important to get the details right."
Developer Don Gerberding said that as a result of the meeting, his team is tweaking some of the architectural details of the project -- in particular, he referred to the design of a rooftop park -- and will bring the proposal back before the Lowry Hill East neighborhood next month before it's presented to the City Council.
The project already came before the City Council's Committee of the Whole and was "received well," Gerberding told us.
"This will be quality housing, not luxury housing, and I make that distinction because the price point is about 20 percent less than the new luxury housing one finds in Uptown," he said.
Though he's still working to assuage neighborhood concerns, Gerberding said "we'd like for construction to begin as soon as possible."