May 28 WCNC Response

Robb,

Thank you for meeting with our Land Use Committee on May 18th to discuss the Calhoun Towers project.  Although you have now submitted your required applications for this Planned Unit Development, we ask that you give serious consideration to the following recommendations as you review the project with city planners:

Size, Scale and Density

  • As we have discussed, WCNC believes the size and scale of the project, and associated density and traffic, is too much for the neighborhood to absorb.We’d like to see it re-sized to the more realistic density (40 -120 dwelling units per acre) of the Midtown Greenway Small Area Plan, which was developed with the West Lake light rail station in mind. We would like to see a reduction in the footprint of one or both of the twin towers to decrease the number of units and also to ameliorate the vista-blocking wall effect of two wide towers.

Affordable Housing

  • Increase the percentage of affordable housing in Phases A, B & C.We think the current plan with 20% in Phase C and 100% in Phase D is inadequate given the shortage of affordable housing in the City and the urban location and proposed density of the project.

Alternative Plans

  • We would like to see a plan for Phase A by itself in case there is a significant delay for any reason between completion of that phase and initiation of Phase B.

Parking

  • We would like to see a minimum of one parking stall per bedroom upon completion of Phase A in recognition of the current inadequacy of public transit and on-street parking in the neighborhood and the likelihood that most renters will need to own cars regardless of the number of on-site stalls. The ratio can be diminished in subsequent phases if the light rail plan moves ahead on schedule and the traffic demand management plan shows signs of succeeding.

Environmental Clean-up

  • We would like to know the timing, details and potential hazards of the soil remediation before and during the construction process.Can you provide a schedule with key partners identified?

Create More Direct Path of Access to Excelsior and lake area

  • Consider re-routing paths and/or foot traffic to provide clearer access from the light rail station, through the property.

Add More Green Space

  • We don’t believe the “pocket park” is adequate for the significant increase in people and the loss of large green areas and mature trees that will be eliminated. We would like to see an increase in greenspace accessible to the public.

Traffic Infrastructure

  • We ask that you work with the City and County to ensure that necessary improvements are made, especially to the approach to the site on Abbott Avenue, including investigating the need for a traffic signal.

Safety/Eyes on the Street

  • As Abbott Ave turns westward onto the realigned 31st Street, the low-rise pedestrian friendly buildings on the left side of the street are replaced by towers and could create an unsafe feeling of isolation despite density for pedestrians waiting for a bus or walking from the West Lake Station at night. We ask that you consider how lighting and better connections between the buildings, sidewalk and station entrance could enhance the walkability of 31st Street.

Bicycle-friendly Design

  • We would like to see a bike/commuter lounge attached to the station-facing end of the Phase D building, similar to that proposed for the Moline Building at the Hopkins LRT station. We also ask for more than 0.5 bicycle stalls per unit, which is an unrealistically low number if the City is to achieve its goal of a 15% of trips by bicycle.

Architecture and Design

  • This project has a significant opportunity to add to the character of the new development Minneapolis will have and particularly to set the tone for a dynamic approach for high density around the city’s most important amenity-the lakes.  Rather than the current blocky, dated and uninspired design, we urge you to look at a composition of buildings that includes the existing tower, has varied heights and a forward thinking design.

Can you please reply to each item above?   We want to work with you and the City of Minneapolis to ensure that the development can be a successful and manageable addition to our neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Allan Campbell
For the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee