Opus U of M Project Gains Approval

Student housing development in the heart of Minneapolis’ Dinkytown is safe – at least for now.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday voted 9-4 in favor of a rezoning that allows Minnetonka-based Opus Development Co. to develop a six-story, 140-unit student apartment project in the core of the area, located just off the University of Minnesota’s campus.

The council decision reversed a previous July 25 ruling of its Zoning and Planning Committee, which voted 3-2 against the rezoning of the parcels, which include 1300-1322 Fifth St. SE and 425 14th Ave. SE.

“Students living near campus just make sense. Growth is good for a city. The opposite is not good for any city,” Council member Gary Schiff, who supported the rezoning, said before the vote.

Council member Diane Hofstede opposed the rezoning because she wanted to give neighborhood groups time to develop a small-area plan for Dinkytown.

“Dinkytown has a 100-year-old history, a history that is built on character and cultural aspects,” Hofstede said.

The funky commercial district has long been dominated by small, local retailers. But student housing near the U has been one of the hot spots in Minneapolis’ recent apartment building boom.

Council member Kevin Reich said he supports conservation, but did not see much to conserve in the 1970s commercial building and parking lot Opus is eying. “It’s a parking lot, and rather a homely one at that,” Reich said.

The Opus project calls for 10,317 square feet of ground-floor retail space. “We’re excited to get started,” Matthew Rauenhorst, Opus’ senior director of real estate development, said after the Council meeting.

There has been talk of longer leasing times for student housing amid the building boom.

But Rauenhorst said of the Opus project, “It will be a great fit in the community. It’s a great location for students to live. We believe location wins out.”

Just across Fifth Street South, Gem Realty Capital Inc. has been constructing a 317-unit complex at 1313 Fifth St. S.E., among the most ambitious campus-area developments.

The Zoning and Planning Committee at the same July 25 meeting where it rejected the Opus proposal opted to approve rezoning for a larger, 202-unit student apartment project proposed by Minneapolis-based CPM Development at a different site near Dinkytown. The full Council voted 12-1 to approve the project on Friday.

Even though the Opus development got through, some council members floated the idea of a future moratorium on Dinkytown development in order to give locals time to come up with a plan for the area.

But Matt Hawbaker of the “Save Dinkytown” movement thinks there are already too many projects in the early planning stages to really halt development.

“They’ve been circling, just kind waiting for this decision,” Hawbaker said of developers.

Hawbaker works as a manager at The Book House, a business in the path of the Opus project that already has relocated.

“I’m really ready to get back to just trying to sell books and make our store better and have our grand opening in September,” Hawbaker said.

Source: Finance and Commerce