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7-story apartment building planned on cursed Uptown restaurant spot

Trilogy Real Estate Group is hoping 150 units of housing with retail space will fare better than six (!) failed restaurants.

Trilogy Real Estate Group is hoping 150 units of housing with retail space will fare better than six (!) failed restaurants. Trilogy Real Estate Group

Look, Minneapolis can argue all day about whether Uptown is dead, but one thing’s for sure; this little parcel of Uptown near the Midtown Greenway is cursed as shit.

Welcome to 2841 Hennepin Ave. S., where restaurant dreams go to die. Most recently, it was Piggy Bank, which, after just a year, closed up shop with little more notice than a note on the door. Before that, there was Lotus. Game Sports Bar. Salsa a la Salsa. The BoneYard. Old Chicago.

Six tenants in as many years, and they all bit the dust. Their specters haunt the now-vacant one-story property.

Stuart Chazin, who had been the property owner since 2010, told SouthWest Journal he was giving up on the idea of putting a restaurant in that spot back in December. They’re just not making enough money in Uptown to pay the rent he has to charge, he explained – property taxes were reportedly nearly $95,500 in 2019.

The flow of customers from the suburbs has petered out, he said, complaining of traffic and parking issues, and a perception that the area isn’t safe. If this spot is cursed, it’s only as cursed as the rest of Uptown.

Now there’s a new party eying the property, and they have no interest in trying to entice diners back to this particular Bermuda Triangle. A developer, Trilogy Real Estate Group, wants to build a seven-story, 150-unit apartment building there, ranging from studios to two-bedrooms.

Plans also include two retail storefronts along Hennepin Avenue, and 100 below-grade parking spaces. Renderings of the exterior resemble that chunky, metal paneled look we’ve become very familiar with in other parts of Uptown. (Project proposals describe it as “contemporary” and “sophisticated yet restrained.”)

“The revitalization of the corner of Hennepin and the Greenway will create an energetic, safe, and people-friendly hub, improving the site’s current conditions,” the overview says. “On the top floor, the building includes an indoor gathering room and outdoor deck for residents to enjoy amenities and views of the lakes and the downtown skyline.”

A trade up, the statement to the neighborhood promised, from the “vacant parcel and dilapidated building” currently in its place.

Trilogy didn’t respond to interview requests, and the overview didn’t include how much on average these units will cost to rent. A statement from the company to the neighborhood association said “project pricing has not been determined at this time,” but that “it will be in line with comparable rental properties in the neighborhood.”

The new building would also be taller than what the current zoning requirements allow (four stories). Trilogy’s seeking a conditional use permit.

The surrounding Lowry Hill East neighborhood, which has seen all these tenants come and go, has been asked to submit its feedback. So far, according to comments compiled on the neighborhood association site, some welcome a bold new plan. Minneapolis needs more housing, after all. But not everybody’s a fan.

“Can we stop with these overpriced developments that sit half vacant because no one can afford them?” one commenter asked. “No one needs another five-story condo building with ‘affordable retail space on street level’ building. Get out of here.”

Others worried about the density and the added need for parking, potentially serving to further choke Uptown and frustrate those shoppers and diners that remain – to say nothing of how it will impact nearby hubs for pedestrian travel and public transit.

The proposal goes before the Minneapolis Planning Commission Committee of the Whole today, July 9.