Plans to replace a dry-cleaning shop with a five-story, mixed-use building at the northwest corner of Saint Clair and Cleveland avenues received a split vote of support from the Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s Housing and Land Use Committee on February 24.

After hearing from many neighbors, the committee voted 12-10-1 to recommend three variances for the building. Attendance at the online meeting maxed out at 100 and, despite efforts to let more people in, some neighbors said they were still unable to hear the presentation and weigh in.

 

Saint Clair and Cleveland
A concept drawing of the proposed building at 235 S. Cleveland Ave.

Developer Jeremy Exley of Bloomington-based WEB Developments LLC wants to tear down Roxy Cleaners at 235 S. Cleveland Ave. to make way for the new building. The building would have 23 one- and two-bedroom apartments and about 2,600 square feet of first-floor commercial space.

The property is zoned commercial, which allows for a mixed-used building. However, building height, parking and floor area ratio variances are needed. The maximum height allowed under the current B2 zoning is 40 feet, while the proposed height is 54.8 feet. The building would be stepped back at the second floor to reduce its massing.

A total of 36.9 parking spaces are required and 24 are proposed. Exley plans to have vehicle lifts so residents could rent one space and park two vehicles in it. The lifts cannot be factored in under the zoning code.

The maximum floor area ratio is 2.0, while 2.8 is proposed. The ratio is based on a building’s floor area in relation to the size of the lot.

 

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Neighborhood reaction was strongly divided, with some contending it will make traffic and spillover parking issues in that area worse. Others were concerned that the building would be too tall and asked Exley to consider reducing it by one or two floors.

Supporters of the project liked the idea of more density and housing options, as well as new commercial space. They also praised plans to clean up pollution at the site.

A gas station previously operated on the site and a dry cleaners has been there for years. Exley is working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on site cleanup related to dry cleaning. Past petroleum pollution has been cleaned up.

A gas station previously operated on the site and a dry cleaners has been there for years. Exley is working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on site cleanup related to dry cleaning. Past petroleum pollution has been cleaned up.

The building’s structured parking would be on the first floor behind the commercial space. There would be one two-story walkup unit with a ground-floor entrance. The other apartments would be on the top four floors. All apartments would be market-rate rentals.

Commercial uses will be smaller-scale, said Exley, without the parking demand a bar or restaurant would bring. Options include offices, services or small-scale retail.

Sargent Avenue neighbor Todd Curtis was among those who raised concerns about the building’s height and spillover parking. The proposed development would be just south of CityLife Church, which some neighbors said already generates spillover parking.

Curtis was among those objecting to the possibility of college students living in the new building, citing noise and disruption. Exley said that while he cannot discriminate as a landlord, his leases have clauses to deter late-night and early-morning noise. He has promoted the development as appealing to empty-nesters and retirees.

Garth and Melanie Mortenson moved to the neighborhood 1½ years ago to get away from busier parts of the city. “We just think the development would alter this neighborhood too much,” Melanie Mortenson said.

Stanford Avenue resident Kateri Routh said more development and density should be welcomed, and that the concerns about spillover parking should ease once the building is completed. “It’s painful to keep hearing the same concerns about parking,” she said.

Tyler Giles of CityLife Church said the building would be welcomed. He praised its proposed elevator and universal design, which would make most of the apartments accessible to people with disabilities.

Committee members debated the proposal, with some saying it fits with plans for the neighborhood to promote more density at commercial nodes. Others said it is too large for the site. Some committee members said they want the project to go to the district council’s Transportation Committee. One concern was that motorists using the parking spaces would be entering and exiting off of an alley. Others said they wanted more time to consider the variances. Exley thanked neighbors for their comments and said they would be taken into consideration.

— Jane McClure

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