The city Planning Commission has approved a zoning change to allow redevelopment of the Garfield Aquarium into four residences and 900 square feet of co-working space at 3255 Garfield Ave. S.
A three-stall garage is planned for the rear of the property, along with a rooftop solar array and greenhouse.
The building operated as a utility substation for more than 80 years, and has been vacant since the 1990s.
Developers Aaron and Karen Parker have previously discussed plans to build more housing on the vacant portion of the site, which was not part of the recent application.
Aaron Parker said that in order to make the project viable, the 1911 building must receive designation from the National Register of Historic Places. He said he does not yet own the site.
“Because the property is essentially of no use without a zoning change, we didn’t want to run rashly into this and buy the property and not be able to do anything with it,” he said.
City staff said they received many letters in opposition to the plans and a few in support.
At the Planning Commission hearing, resident Devin Hogan said he spoke as a millennial in support of the project. He called the plan an “extremely reasonable proposal to turn a decrepit, decaying industrial property into a place that people want to live.”
“People like me want to live in urban areas,” he said.
Resident Michael Nelson said that while parking is tight — especially during kickball games — it’s not impossible.
“As someone who has rented in the neighborhood up in the Wedge, where parking is way more tight, walking a few blocks is usually not a major problem for someone who is renting,” he said.
Resident Jon Loer said parking is often at a premium, however.
“Past six o’clock at night you’re lucky if you can find a place to park,” he said. “I think we have 97 units on this block already, so there just is no place to park.”
Other residents worried about a “bait and switch,” or the possibility of a future sale to another developer with different ideas.
Resident Bryce Pier said Aaron Parker has shared at least six iterations of the plan, varying from four units to 17 units. He said if the zoning change is approved, there isn’t much the neighborhood could do to prevent the second phase of the project. And if the sale falls through, Xcel would be sitting on a much more valuable piece of land eligible for redevelopment, he said.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the height increase and zoning change to a Neighborhood Office Residence District (OR1). Commissioners also approved the requested setbacks to allow a front stairway and patio along 33rd Street, with a condition to green the landing and create a landscaping plan.
“I would not vote for it if I thought there were a possibility for some wildly out-of-character uses,” said Commissioner Sam Rockwell. “I just look at the OR1 … and it just is not much different than what is allowed in residential [districts]. … It allows more residential units, which I believe is a good thing.”