Tower replacing Nye's Polonaise Room clears hurdle

A rendering of the proposed Nye's redevelopment
A rendering of the proposed development at 116 East Hennepin Ave.
Courtesy of ESG Architects, Minneapolis, MN

The planned 30-story residential development at the site of Nye's Polonaise Room in Minneapolis crossed its first hurdle on Tuesday night by receiving tentative approval from the neighborhood group's task force.

The proposal would preserve the current bar building on the corner of the lot and the historic harness shop at 116 East Hennepin Ave., which would be moved west so it abuts the bar, according to Schafer Richardson senior project manager Maureen Michalski.

The rest of the block will be used to build a 30-story residential tower with 189 market rate apartments, Michalski said. The development will also include parking and a ground floor dedicated to retail.

The news that a residential tower would replace Nye's ran into some opposition from those who said it didn't fit the character of the neighborhood. A Facebook group called Save Nye's Polonaise has garnered more than 8,000 fans.

Michalski said there's a variety of types of housing and uses in the neighborhood already.

"The goal was to primarily look at those existing buildings," Michalski said, "How can we align those on the site so that they are brought together in a way fills that commercial frontage gap along Hennepin...and to really be that gateway when you come up Hennepin?"

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The development meets the neighborhood's small area plan goals of creating residential density and preserving some of the historic character, Michalski said.

Nye's Polonaise Room
Nye's Polonaise Room, Minneapolis, March 27, 2009.
Alan Turkus / Creative Commons via Flickr

A committee from the nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church posted a letter to parishioners Sunday outlining their opposition to the development, which they said could threaten the church's 158-year-old foundation and obstruct views of the church from around the neighborhood.

"Simply put, density is not right for every location and most certainly not a location that jeopardizes the structure of our historic church and its prominent place in the neighborhood," according to the committee's letter.

The development still needs to gain the approval of various city and community bodies. The Nicollet Island - East Bank Neighborhood Association will decide on whether to approve the project during a meeting scheduled for Feb. 25. The project also needs to apply for land use applications from the city, a process that will include meetings whether the public can comment.

Developers are hoping to start construction by February 2016, although that date depends on how long the approval process takes.

Nye's first opened in 1950 and is well known for polka and its piano bar. Co-owners Ron and Tony Jacob have said slow business and high upkeep costs for the historic buildings contributed to their decision to close.