Eyebrows raised when Coze Flats opened in 2014.
Inside the 48-unit apartment complex near the University of Minnesota and northeast Minneapolis were many so-called "micro" units -- some as small as 400 square feet, slightly bigger than the average hotel room -- rented for around $1,000 per month.
The doubters were quieted this summer. The micro apartment development was sold for $9.4 million. The building was 96 percent occupied at the time of the sale.
And now the same developer's bringing the little concept to Uptown.
The latest proposal from Curt Gunsbury's Solhem Companies is a six-story structure filled with even smaller apartments -- some as diminunitive as 380 square feet.
Micros are essentially modest versions of studio or efficiency apartments. Partitions segment off sleeping quarters -- the "bed nook" -- from the kitchen.
If Solhem has its way, a pair of exhausted structures on Holmes Avenue, just off Lake Street, would be razed and replaced with 71 units. They'd range in size from 380 to 850 square feet with rents starting at around $1,100 and topping out at about $2,000. The building would also house 39 parking stalls.
The new development would rise between the Jon English Hairspa on Lake Street and the existing six-story Solhem apartments on Holmes.
Solhem's Uptown pitch will require zoning concessions from the city: With six of its eight floors above ground, and a roof height of 74 feet, the project needs a conditional use permit from the planning and zoning department. Current regulations allow for only four floors, or a maximum height of 56 feet.
The difficulty reconciling affordability and sustainability isn't lost on Gunsbury, the developer. Appreciating land costs, expensive eco-friendly materials, buildings outfitted with energy- and water-saving equipment -- it all adds up. So does the city's cumbersome process to move a development from proposal to realized project, and that's before Gunsbury's group pays any property taxes.
"We are of the city and we work hard to make sure our buildings fit well in the city," he says. "The issue with any new construction are all these costs, which for any new construction is going to be at least $200,000 per unit."
Though a relatively new phenomena to the City of Lakes, micros are kind of a big deal in claustrophobic urban centers from Hong Kong to Rome, New York City to Seattle.
"We're not eliminating housing with this," Gunsbury says. "Three people live on the two parcels now where we want to build 71 units.
"Its location is close to mass transit. You can walk to the grocery store. This isn't micro in how you live in it. We feel it's a good entry point for sustainable housing."
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