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Opposition to 40-story condo tower in northeast Minneapolis is almost out of options

Progress has eroded much of the area's historic flavor. Opponents of the 40-story Alatus tower consider the proposal a slap in the face.

Progress has eroded much of the area's historic flavor. Opponents of the 40-story Alatus tower consider the proposal a slap in the face.

The shiny residential tower proposed by Minneapolis developer Alatus will soar 40 stories, rising from the dirt at the corner of Central Avenue and 2nd Street SE.

The building, in the heart of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, will feature retail on the lower floors with more than 200 condos stacked on the floors above. 

It would also prove a windfall for Minneapolis' treasury. Today, the property taxes amount to $30,000 annually. Alatus' building would generate about $3 million.

All of this matters not to some residents in the Nicollet Island-East Bank and Marcy Holmes neighborhoods. They see the project as a glass and steel encroachment from downtown crossing the Mississippi River.

The resistance has been thick ever since the developer first pitched the idea for the former site of the Washburn-McReavy funeral home. Neighbors for East Bank Livability, a citizen's group, filed for an environmental review earlier this year. Among the potential negative impacts it cited were damage to adjacent historic structures, traffic, noise and dust.

The city dismissed them, writing, "The project does not have the potential for significant environmental effects."

The city's Heritage Preservation Commission officially frowned upon the high rise, calling its scale and height inappropriate and incompatible with the shorter historical architecture in the area. 

The developer appealed, and the city sided with Alatus, which will receive a generous variance in order to build the tower. Current regulations state it can be no more than 10-12 stories. 

Resident Mary Rizer brought up this point in an April email to Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey.

By shirking the zoning rules, "[h]asn't a disturbing precedent been set for future development?" she asks.

The closest properties include the one-story former Pillsbury Library, the nine-level St. Anthony parking ramp, and the 12-story Winslow House Condominiums. There's also a pair of 30-story buildings within blocks.

On Thursday morning, opponents will have one last chance to derail the project. That's when the planning and zoning committee will hear Neighbors for East Bank Liveability's appeal of the earlier city decision that said the project should go forward. 

Frey understands the concerns.

"Sleek, modern architecture should not be shunned just to pretend we're still living in 1910," he says. "The neighborhood is one of the most interesting in the whole city. We've got high rise buildings, late 20th century architecture, and low rise condominiums. The undulating character is what sets us apart and makes it cool. Yes, this would be the tallest building in the neighborhood, but… it would also hide a very large parking ramp that's right next to it.

"Listen, I don't want a neighborhood of expanding high rises. It's about expanding on the undulating character that already exists."