NOTHING LIKE A LITTLE heat to keep developer Michael Lander at the top of his game. City officials had high expectations for the resurrection of an industrial site wedged between two well-known residential nodes in Minneapolis. As the first phase of a larger “urban village” concept, Midtown Lofts would set the tone for a string of contiguous infill projects along an old railway bed that had been recast as the Midtown Greenway, a bike trail system connecting the city's east and west suburbs. The idea was to introduce higher-density, contemporary-style ownership condos to an area dominated by traditional architecture and rental housing.
Stitching the 72 new residences seamlessly into the local grain was largely a matter of massing. With their 7½-foot windows and sculptured, four-story façades, the buildings along the property's southern edge activate the bike trail and create a colorful promenade. As the parcel stretches north, however, flat roof forms give way to gables, and the structures step down to 2½-story units that read more like town-houses—a sympathetic gesture to the existing traditional homes across the street.
Clad in geometric planes of brick, stucco, fiber cement, and corrugated metal, the loft units are decidedly urban, yet their pacing remains somewhat classical. “On the north side, we gave the porches a contemporary rendering, but their trellises, columns, and sidewalks create a rhythm similar to that seen in the adjacent single-family and duplex homes,” says Lander.
Further proof that the market was primed for an alternative was confirmed on the inside. When given the choice between traditional interior finishes (hardwood flooring, carpet, crown molding) versus contemporary elements (sealed concrete flooring, exposed ductwork, and open floor plans), 70 percent of buyers opted for the latter.
Pushing the agenda a step further, one unit was outfitted head-to-toe in eco-features (low-VOC paints, low-flow plumbing fixtures, Energy Star appliances, electrical dimmer switches) and used as a prototype for green tours and seminars. “We figured educating the consumer about the value and benefits of green building will pay off in the next project we do,” says Lander. “I completely believe this [value proposition] is headed downstream, and that consumer demand will become more of a market force in the near future.”
Categories: Townhouse, less than 2,000 square feet (grand); Infill community (merit); Entrant/Land planner/Interior designer: Lander Group, Minneapolis; Developer: Lander Sherman, Minneapolis; Builder: Kraus-Anderson, Minneapolis; Architect: ESG Architects, Minneapolis; Landscape architect: Close Landscape Architecture, Minneapolis photos: top: albert vecerka/esto photographics; bottom: alex steinberg
WINDOW TREATMENT “One of our general design philosophies is to use very common, off-the-shelf materials in a unique way,” says developer Michael Lander. Take the lyrical window compositions that make Midtown Lofts such a showstopper. All of the glazing is carried out with standard fare from Marvin's Integrity series, but the elevations mix things up with a blend of double-hung, awning, casement, and fixed windows. “We used virtually everything in the book, but combined them in different patterns,” Lander says.