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Dinkytown McDonald's development hits snag with city staff

The proposed building's height and bulk are both beefier than what area regulations allow.

The proposed building's height and bulk are both beefier than what area regulations allow. Google Street

CA Ventures announced this summer it had its eye on the weird, sunken, ’70s-era landmark that is the McDonald’s in Dinkytown—not to mention the rest of the block it’s on.

Initial plans called for an apartment building 16 or 25 stories tall, either of which would’ve easily marked the tallest point in the neighborhood. Those blueprints have since been scaled back to a 10-story mixed-use building with nearly 330 apartment units, 885 bedrooms, 23,000 square feet of commercial space, and over 200 parking stalls.

Developers said 8 percent of the project’s units (or roughly 25) would be affordable for people making 60 percent of median income, pricing out to about $635 for a single unit or $550 a person for a two-bedroom, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Once construction was done, the plan was to invite McDonald’s back to reopen in a shiny and tall new home.

City of Minneapolis staff have recommended a denial of CA Ventures’ application. In an email, Minneapolis spokesperson Casper Hill described a sort of death by a thousand cuts. Along with a height adjustment, the developers are seeking a variance for floor area ratio, a measure of a project's mass relative to the plot it’s building on. (Plans submitted to the city called for a ratio more than double the current limit for that area.)

The building also didn't include recesses or step backs at the uppper level, which would “reduce the impact of the proposal to increase the building bulk.” 

“Staff had multiple conversations about these concerns and the applicant did redesign the building,” Hill said. "However, the redesign did not distribute the height and the massing in a way that would provide articulation and break up the bulk of the block-long building in an area where adopted city policy is calling for a maxiumum of six stories, and staff was unable to recommend approval." 

The city planning commission will discuss those findings in a Monday meeting, and the rezoning application (and/or any appeals by CA Ventures, if its plans are rejected) would come in early 2020.

City staff aren’t the only ones to see some potential flaws in the project. The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association submitted a letter in late November opposing the plan, citing “height and bulk” among other issues.

“Many of the community benefits proposed by CA Ventures, welcome as they may be, are really mitigations for inadequate parking… or alternative compliance for exceptions to the site plan review standards,” said the letter, which cited affordable housing and a grocery store as pressing needs for the neighborhood.

On top of that, McDonald’s isn’t the only spot that will be wiped out if the project gets approved. The proposed site also includes a Five Guys, the Pagoda Chinese restaurant, and the nearby liquor store owned by Irv Hershkovitz.

In a previous interview with City Pages, Hershkovitz said CA Ventures was treating the current tenants well and had offered him a place in the new building for his store, though he says he’s not interested in reopening.