Friday, January 1, 2010

3005 Emerson: CARAG's Next Controversial Building

Image from (additional renderings and specifics can be found there as well)

What's a neighborhood to do without a good building controversy to keep things interesting? Some CARAG residents certainly seem to follow that train of thought. I'm not criticizing, by the way; I might not agree very often with the Aaron Rubensteins and Howard Versons of the world, but I have as strong opinions as anyone else when it comes to discussing the built environment of Uptown's neighborhoods. The latest controversial project seems to be the proposed building at 3005 Emerson. Developer Clark Gassen and local firm BKV Group envision the site as a restaurant, and some preliminary renderings also show a rooftop deck in the back.

Neighbors are not, as you can imagine, happy. There's a petition going around; I haven't seen it and am not sure what is being protested, but since the site is zoned commercial I can only assume that the neighbors are protesting the requested parking variance (they're asking for only six parking spots, not eight), and probably the roof patio.

I have mixed feelings on this, and can see the pros and the cons. Let's address the negatives first:

Hideous architecture. Yeah, I know not everyone agrees with me; I know some people actually like this, and some people think while it's not exactly beautiful, it's not atrocious, either. I think it's absolutely terrible, and looks like an architecture clip art book vomited up its contents onto the rendering page. It's going to look dated in about a year, and has absolutely zero architectural charm. I know it's subject to change, but that horrible blend of brick coupled with that dark siding (or is it metal sheeting?) on top, plus those weird jutting outcroppings just scream dated-upon-arrival. Please, please, BKV Group, don't make us live with this atrocity in our neighborhood.

Do we really need another restaurant? I love restaurants, and wish I could afford to eat out more often. I don't have a problem with restaurants, necessarily, but enough already. What Uptown really needs is more daytime uses; what about an office, or maybe a medical building? Useful retail space would be okay, too. A daytime-focused use would bring more workers to Uptown during the day, while a restaurant would inevitably contribute to making Uptown and Lyn-Lake even more of an entertainment/nighttime destination. I have no problem with plentiful evening options, including restaurants and bars, but I'd really prefer not to have one on this specific site.

On to the positives:

Filling in the parking lots is a good thing. More businesses closer to housing is a good thing. It's not really a corner store, and it's not in the heart of the residential areas, but I like to have lots of businesses within walking distance. I also am happy to see surface parking lots disappear.

Potential. I hate the building, but admit it could be worse. At least it's not a drive-through credit union or a strip mall-like building with parking in front. Even an ugly building is better than a parking lot. It's also exciting to think about what new business might move in to the location, and hope it's something good.

Some final thoughts:

Parking. This is always a big one. Permit parking is the name of the game in that section of CARAG, and I'm sure parking is going to be one of the big reasons many of the critics oppose the project. I admit that I don't care much about parking, other than to admit that parking issues are important to the economic viability of most local businesses. Maybe I should say that I don't care about the parking issues for residents. If you want guaranteed parking then buy or rent a place that comes with a garage or parking spot, otherwise join the rest of us and look for street parking, take the bus, walk, or bike. Free parking shouldn't be considered a right, and parking problems for people who choose to live so close to Lake (their location certainly comes with plenty of other perks) shouldn't be something that concerns any of us. That's another topic, though. Still, parking remains an issue in Uptown and will undoubtedly continue to be a hot topic for years to come, so at least a daytime-focused business would help spread the parking needs throughout the day.

Height. Height is, of course, always another hot topic. This project is short, so the usual cries of "it's too tall!" aren't going to be heard. My complaint is that it's too short. As currently proposed, it's a one-story building with a rooftop patio. Let's skip the patio (I can see why neighbors aren't thrilled with that, and I think they have a legitimate complaint there) and put apartments or additional small office space on the second floor. A one-story (even one-story with rooftop additions) single-use property is a wasted opportunity.
So, what do you think?


  1. Good Article, just want to clarify a few things….

    **The design of the building is very, very loose and this is not the final design of the building. BKV Group has not started the exterior design; this rendering is a “massing” sketch just to show the neighborhood group/City the scale. The investment group that will own the building would like more feedback from the neighborhood group and also the tenant on the final design of the building.

    ** If the investment group does decide to work with a restaurant group, they will be very selective on the concept. This concept will be much like small boutique restaurants: Lucia’s Wine Bar, Café Maude, Café 28. There will not be an outside bar on the roof. BKV Group will also be designing a “sound wall” to help protect the neighbors to the South.

    We all would love to see more daytime business move into Uptown and have been talking to non-restaurant groups as well ie: business offices, dental group, etc. The current real estate/financial market will let the investment group know what direction to take in making a final decision.

    **With the new parking lot across Emerson Avenue and the six (6) stalls in the back of the building, parking should not be an issue for this size project. BKV Group has done a great job getting as much parking in the back of the building as possible. The investment group is currently working with surrounding businesses to allocate additional stalls for this building, in order to allow additional parking if a restaurant does go into the building.

    I represent the investment group for this project. If anyone wants to meet and discuss design, future uses for the building, constructive feedback, etc. feel free to contact me directly (612) 720-0456. The investment group made it very clear to me, they want BKV Group to design a building that will be cohesive with the neighborhood and add a nice addition to Uptown for everyone to enjoy.

    Thank you,

    Clark A. Gassen, Agent for investment group

  2. "So, what do you think?"

    Total non-issue.

    Petitions? Give me a break. These people should use their (apparently excessive) free time to champion affordable housing or better transit connections. Do some actual good for the community.

  3. I cant imagine what the CARAG NIMBYs have against this project. Their opposition to a project that is unquestionably allowed by existing zoning shows just how delusional these people can be. If you care at all about sustainability, the local economy, or the aesthetics of the place where you live, its hard to understand preferring to have a surface parking lot instead of an urban building.

    I agree that it would be nice to see a taller building. Especially given that the Uptown Row project across the street wasted an entire block of Lake Street by building a one-story strip mall.

  4. I'm glad to hear that the design isn't anywhere near final yet, and have hopes that the final product will be an attractive addition to Uptown.

    As far as the local NIMBYs, to be fair, I haven't seen their petition yet. I think they have a right to voice their opinion on things (because that's what I do on this blog, after all), but it's also true that if they don't want to live near commercial properties, including restaurants, then they shouldn't buy or rent on a block that is just off of Lake Street. It's not like this should come as a surprise. A petition is overkill, and more about attempting to stop change rather than opening dialogue between neighbors.

    Despite what I said about restaurants above, I will admit that if I lived on that block I'd be thrilled with another restaurant option in such close proximity. Talk about convenient, especially on cold winter days. Too bad Rustica already moved; now THAT would be a great addition to the neighborhood. Maybe Turtle Bread wants to open an Uptown location?

    As to Uptown Row, I don't like that project very much, either, and I especially hate the parking lot. I know parking requirements aren't going to go away anytime soon (or ever), but walking up Emerson and having that parking lot cutting off Lake from the rest of the block is a travesty. I'm sure many of the neighbors don't agree, but I'd much rather have fewer parking spaces (there is, after all, the Calhoun Square ramp a short walk away) and have the land facing Emerson on that side be filled in with an Emerson-facing building. In that sense, I think that's one very good thing that the proposed 3005 building is doing; it's bringing business onto the sidestreets (even if only by a little bit), and not concentrating on only lots facing directly onto major streets. I'm 100% in favor of mixing in (appropriately done) business space into the residential streets of the neighborhood.

  5. I agree that there are lots of restaurants in Uptown and another one is not particularly thrilling. If they can bring in a neighborhood restaurant, than I think it'll work out a lot nicer than a more destination type place.

    One opportunity that these slightly less-desirable commercial sites (compared with a prime Henn/Lake location) is that the rent should be less and more likely that a neighborhood-focused business can start up there. I agree with other folks' comments about getting rid of a parking lot.

    Also agree that the facade isn't much to look at right now. Figured it was a massing study. Red brick, cream textured CMU block, black paneling, and those early-2000s stick-out metal things are blah blah blah. Hopefully the future tenant desires something more defined and that the $ is there to do so.

  6. I'm not sure why the City of Minneapolis would give the go ahead for any projects headed by this man.

  7. As a resident on this block I am very excited about this project. I've received two flyers announcing neighborhood meetings about the proposed zoning changes, but haven't been asked to sign any petitions. As far as I can tell, the noise from a proposed rooftop patio is the primary concern from nearby residents, but I imagine that would affect the very closest few residents and minimally so with a sound wall included in building plans.
    One concern that hasn't been mentioned yet is the already available retail space in Uptown Row with the recent closure of Fantastic Sams and the Indio space that has been for lease over a year and still remains vacant. I assume the investment group has done their homework, but the demand for additional retail real estate isn't apparant and is a concern for a resident on the block.
    As a young professional I would prefer a unique new restaurant/bar a la Cowboy Slims or Stella's with an active late-night scene, but a daytime retail business would also serve the neighborhood better than the current parking lot that sits empty day after day.

  8. I'm not sure why Gassen is still in this city, every where he goes he pisses people off. Go back to Las Vegas where scum like you belong...