Hotel and ramp coming to former Midway Center superblock

With much of the former Midway Center superblock now owned by one party, redevelopment is moving ahead. The sale of more shopping center property to Snelling Midway Redevelopment LLC in late January clears the way for projects including a hotel with restaurant and an attached parking ramp.
The hotel and ramp require a conditional use permit and six variances. An application to the city was anticipated as this issue of the Monitor went to press.
The Union Park District Council (UPDC) land use committee reviewed the hotel and needed variances Jan. 22. The hotel would be located along University between Asbury and Simpson streets. The hotel and its parking ramp would form an ell shape, which would face a lawn. The lawn in turn would be north of the Great Lawn for the Allianz Field stadium.
UPDC hasn’t taken action on the permit and variances yet, and won’t do so until a formal application is filed with the city. Hamline Midway Coalition is also expected to weigh in, as the structure is right on the border between the two planning districts.
The conditional use permit is for the height of the hotel’s west facing wall, from 75 feet to a proposed 90 feet. The other walls doesn’t require a permit as designed. The parking structure would not exceed the 75-foot height limit.
The master plan for the property proposes a height of 100 to 180 feet for the planned hotel, which was supposed to be in the southeastern part of the property.
Mike Hahm, project consultant, said the variances are viewed as minor. One is for the entrance along University. The city limits that vehicular entrance to 60 feet; the request is for the entrance to extend the entire length of the hotel’s front, for a full building east to west loop. This would be for guest unloading and loading. Those vehicles would enter on Simpson and exit via Asbury.
A second variance is for the building entrance to be placed in the middle of the structure’s main floor. The city requires new structures to have entrances that “anchor” a corner.
An eave design for the west wall of the building drives the third variance request.
The fourth variance is to allow the hotel to be set back 44 feet south of University, rather than the standard 10 feet. This setback increase is needed to accommodate the necessary drive up and drop off area. The setback is also needed so as not to move a large transformer box for Green Line light rail.
The city has minimum standards for the percentage of door and window openings on new structures. The variance requests are needed to comply with the interior design for hotel rooms and for ground floor spaces in the facility. The fifth variance is to the city’s standard for door and window openings, on the east and west side of the hotel. Rooms will be along hallways and the interior design doesn’t allow for more windows. The sixth variance is for window and door ground floor openings on the east and west sides of the structure.
Land use committee members questioned the number of variances, and why the master plan didn’t take the hotel design issues into consideration.
The size of the parking ramp also raised questions. The ramp will be shared by other businesses on the large block and isn’t solely for hotel use. Shared parking facilities are part of the master plan, which won city council approval seven years ago.
Hahm noted that other aspects of the area redevelopment are proceeding, including environmental cleanup and site preparation for the University-Snelling sculpture plaza and the all-abilities playground on Pascal Street.
What will allow more projects to move ahead is the Snelling Midway Redevelopment LLC’s 54.4 million purchase of properties in the block bounded by Pascal and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues.
RK Midway Shopping Center LLC is the seller. It is part of New York-based RD Management LLC.
The purchase includes former Midway Center properties as well as the Snelling-University southeast corner lot, a small building that has housed or houses a variety of businesses including a locksmith, sandwich shop, check cashing business and carryout pizza place, and the longtime Midway Center McDonald’s.
McDonald’s, the multi-tenant business building and the former Midway Perkins/Big Top Liquors building were planned in the late 1980s, as part of the revitalization of Midway Center. Plans originally called for three fast food restaurants there. The plans faced community opposition as well as skepticism from some city planners and Planning Commission members. One big issue was drive-through traffic entering and exiting via University.


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