The Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi could become the site of a new apartment complex

John and Ursula Lentz have lived near the Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi for more than 35 years.

The former supper club at 10 Old Wildwood Road is a local landmark that featured in the movie Fargo. Remember the scene where Police Commissioner Marge Gunderson (Oscar winner Frances McDormand) interviews some prostitutes? Gunderson’s squad car is parked in the snow in front of the club.

The Lakeside Club closed in 2020 after around 60 years of operation. Officials from St. Paul’s Hearth Development have proposed demolishing the vacant building and building a three-story, market-priced apartment complex on the 10-acre site.

The Lentzes say the 39-unit development would radically change the character of their neighborhood, which features mature trees and single-family homes set back from the street.

“If you drive down Old Wildwood Road, you can see houses, but they’re a long way from the road,” John Lentz said. “When that gets built, all of a sudden it’ll be ‘Boom!’ It will be everything you see.”

The Lentzes know that the property, which is designated as a compact apartment building, will eventually be built on.

“There is no question that a development … that fits into and enhances the district and the city is desirable,” wrote Ursula Lentz in a letter to the city administration. “However, apart from the Lakeside Club, which has closed, there are no shops in the area and no apartment buildings nearby. With the exception of the Lakeside Club, the area is single-family residential. A three-story apartment building does not fit into the neighborhood; A more harmonious, smaller development is needed and has been requested by nearly 200 of the neighbors living in the area. … The proposed structure would be twice the height of neighboring homes and have a footprint nearly ten times that of nearby apartment buildings. It’s not what you would call harmonic.”

Among the concerns of the neighbors: an increase in traffic, loss of natural light, light pollution and environmental problems.

“People move to Mahtomedi because it’s a ‘small town’ – that’s the slogan on every welcome sign you see when you enter the city,” said Kelly McShane, who also lives in the neighborhood. “A building of this size and density does not fit into the mature and dense single family development in which this development is proposed. It will stick out like a sore thumb.”

The developer’s variance request for construction of the 39-unit complex will be heard by the city’s planning commission on Wednesday evening. The matter is expected to be heard by Mahtomedi City Council on May 17.

APARTMENT PROPOSAL

  • Hearth Development in St. Paul proposes the construction of a three-story apartment complex on the grounds of Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi. The plan is for the building to have a common room, an outdoor patio, a rooftop terrace, and a fitness center. (Courtesy of Kaas Wilson Architects)

  • Mahtomedi Lakes rendering with landscaping and adjacent bike path

    Hearth Development in St. Paul proposes the construction of a three-story apartment complex on the grounds of Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi. The plan is for the building to have a common room, an outdoor patio, a rooftop terrace, and a fitness center. (Courtesy of Kaas Wilson Architects)

  • Mahtomedi Lakes Rendering with Landscaping and Outdoor Terrace

    Hearth Development in St. Paul proposes the construction of a three-story apartment complex on the grounds of Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi. The plan is for the building to have a common room, an outdoor patio, a rooftop terrace, and a fitness center. (Courtesy of Kaas Wilson Architects)

In addition to approving the site plan, Hearth officials are seeking approval of a variance from the city’s Coastal Overlay District maximum elevation requirement and approval of variances to allow for setback variances, city planner Hannah Rybak said.

In 2014, city officials approved plans for a 39-unit senior citizens’ cooperative on the site, but the project was never built, Rybak said, because the developer was unable to hit the threshold of units for sale to begin construction .

Hearth officials came to town in February with plans for a 41-unit complex with a gabled roof that was 47 feet high. The Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend rejection of the project.

The developer then changed plans, reducing the number of units to 39 and switching to a flat roof, which reduces the overall height to 34 feet, 5 inches, Rybak said.

In addition, the developers lowered the southeast portion of the building from three stories to two stories, reducing the structure’s visual impact from Lincolntown Avenue, she said.

In her memo to city officials, Rybak wrote that granting the elevation and setback variances would not change the essential character of the site.

“Surrounding the property are roads, a path, parkland and the large wetland area which provides additional buffer space between the proposed dwelling and the single family homes in the area,” she wrote. “The distance between them ensures that none of the other residential uses are overshadowed by this development. Thirty-nine residential units have much less impact than the traffic generated by the restaurant that formerly operated on the site. The landscape plan is robust and serves to soften the impact of the building.”

LIVING OPTIONS

City Manager Scott Neilson said the city has designated the area as a high-density multifamily building in its Comprehensive Plan for 2040, a document designed to guide development and infrastructure priorities.

The project would serve the goal of diversifying housing opportunities within the city due to the lack of market-driven, age-independent housing options, he said. There is currently only one other off-the-shelf apartment complex in the city, he said.

In November, Mahtomedi city officials approved plans for Wildwood Apartments, a 110-unit apartment complex, half of which will be reserved for lower-income tenants. There are also plans to build another 59-unit apartment complex on the site of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.

Mahtomedi Lakes would feature a common room, outdoor patio, rooftop deck and fitness center. The apartments would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, with the six largest units — two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a den — being 1,473 square feet, said Link Wilson, partner at Kaas Wilson Architects in Bloomington.

An underground car park with 48 parking spaces and 25 parking spaces on the surface are planned. There will be connections to hiking and biking trails, indoor and outdoor bike parking, an electric bike charging station, an electric car charging station, enclosed garbage and recycling chutes, and a secure parcel drop-off area.

“For a small 39-unit home, it’s packed with a lot of amenities,” Wilson said. “The team, which includes a biologist, a landscape architect and a civil engineer, worked very hard to construct a beautiful building on this site that responds to the natural features in and around the entire neighborhood.”

Regardless of the amenities, the project doesn’t fit the character of the surrounding community, McShane said.

Most of the other locations in Mahtomedi, which are divided into high-density and multi-family zones, have generous setbacks and are within or adjacent to commercial, business or industrial districts, he said. In the case of Mahtomedi Lakes, there are more than 100 homes within a quarter mile of the property.

McShane said he and other neighbors are excited to see improvements to the site, but that any improvements should be made “with careful planning and without exceptional requests for deviation.”

“This plan does not improve the character of the community,” he said. “We think it reduces it.”

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