West Calhoun apartment proposal may hit snag over parking

St. Paul-based At Home Apartments is pitching a six-story, 48-unit apartment building along France Avenue in West Calhoun. Submitted image

A duplex and two single-family homes along West 31st Street near the St. Louis Park border could soon be torn down to make way for an apartment building with 49 units and nearly as many parking spaces.

But with 45 parking spaces proposed on two levels, the city has said the building is “quite a bit overparked,” according to Pete Keely, founder of Collage Architects.

“I was given a very quick flat note that they want to be a rideshare city and not a car city,” Leanna Stefaniak, general counsel for St. Paul-based At Home Apartments, told the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council on July 2.

Members of the neighborhood association laughed off the city’s reservations and vowed to support the building’s nearly 1-to-1 parking-to-unit ratio. “The younger professional demographic is a little more likely to have a car and need a car,” Board member Richard Logan said. 

The six-story building would rise at 3818-26 W. 31st St. in an apartment-heavy corner of the city wedged between West Lake Street and the Cedar Lake Trail. “Bus service and future light rail access are excellent,” the developer’s project description reads. 

Plans call for a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom units. Most of the units would be between 650 and 950 square feet and monthly rents in the building would be set around $2 per square foot.

Stefaniak said amenities have been kept to a minimum to hold down rents. Residents would have access to a small patio and rooftop deck and be able to use the pool and sauna at Lakewood Isles — another At Home Apartments property a block to the east. About half the units would have balconies. “It’s trying to offer new construction and amenities at the lower side of market-rate,” Keely said.

Rents in the duplex and two houses marked for demolition ranged from $975–$1,295 per month. “I don’t want to say they were an eyesore, but they were tired properties,” Stefaniak said.

The site is currently zoned to allow six-story buildings. Under the 2040 plan, still to be approved by the Metropolitan Council, it would be zoned Transit 10, allowing buildings up to 10 stories high. 

The site has a 15-foot grade differential, which means that the building would appear as six stories high from the rear alley on its north side, where an entrance would lead to the lower level of parking. The building would appear to be five stories from West 31st Street. An entrance from that side would lead to an upper level of parking. The building would have a total of 27 bike stalls.

The developer is seeking to reduce the set back from 16 feet to six feet on the side of the building facing a dead-end stretch of France Avenue that is currently without sidewalks. That request and other variances have been recommended for approval by city staff. 

Keely said city staff told him they had tentative plans to build a pedestrian connection over the Cedar Lake Trail near France Avenue. A number of options for bridging the trail were analyzed by city staff in a 2016 West Lake Multimodal Study, but city spokesperson Sarah McKenzie said the public works department currently has no plans for a pedestrian connection in the area and a bridge is not likely to be explored further until after the Green Line LRT extension opens.

Members of the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council said they appreciated plans to add more apartments at the location but asked that care be taken to minimize the number of mature trees cut down. 

“I’m concerned about the loss of green space and greenery,” Board member Victoria Hoshal said.

The proposal will go before the Planning Commission on July 22.

  • Hiawatha

    One way that they could lower the rents further is by building one fewer levels of parking. Two seems excessive. There will be a light rail station just a few steps away!

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