Open house offers first glimpse at 4500 France Apartments

A preliminary design of the 4500 France Apartment complex. (Submitted graphic)

An open house was held in the Edina Cleaners building Tuesday, June 12, to give a first glimpse at the potential 4500 France Apartments complex.
The proposed five-story, mixed-use building, which would replace Edina Cleaners set to move next door, drew constructive, laudatory and sometimes unruly comments during the sweltering evening meeting.
The sketch review process with the planning commission and Edina City Council has not yet begun, so the project in its most preliminary stages was intended to be presented as an olive branch to neighbors who may already have strong feelings against it.
“The purpose of this meeting is not to be tone-deaf to the neighborhood,” Project developer Ted Carlson said.
Carlson explained that the adjacent two homes were under contract for purchase.
The nearest home would be absorbed into the development while the other home would be used for some sort of green space.
The power pole island at the corner of Sunnyside and France, which
opponents and supporters alike agreed was dangerous to pedestrians, would instead be turned into a public plaza.
The retail plan for the first floor would be just under 7,000 square feet with more than half of that being dedicated to a restaurant.
Carlson proposed two stories of underground parking, with 68 stalls (including 30-plus on grade) devoted to the public.
The remaining 98 would be for the 64 units of luxury apartments comprising the next four stories.
The fifth story would only be on the France Avenue side and comprise only six of the units. It would taper to four stories on the Sunnyside Avenue portion of the development.
Across the street in Linden Hills, the
Minneapolis zoning allows for a
maximum of five stories or 56 feet. This project
proposal would be 62 feet.
“I knew someday there would come a point where the building would be sold and gone away because it needs it,” Edina Cleaners Owner Lee Stotts said. “I want to avoid the horribleness that happened in Linden Hills – I didn’t want a civil war.”
Stotts said when he knew he would sell the building, he wanted a developer committed to Edina and the Morningside neighborhood.
“[Carlson] is going to be here for the next 50 years, and the other developers I talked to were just interested in 10-story buildings with Trump across the top,” Stotts said, in one of the few moments of levity during the tense presentation. “Ted’s idea was to come in and make something that really works.”
Stotts added that the redevelopment would include cleaning up underground contamination from the 1950s.
“We are trying to be transparent and trying to engage so people don’t say, ‘The developer didn’t reach out.’ ‘The developer didn’t engage.’ ‘We didn’t hear what was going on.’ That is the primary goal: to hear from you,” Carlson said.
The process of this redevelopment is happening in the same period as the 44 and France Small Area Plan meetings, leading some to ask that the project waits until the entire comprehensive plan is completed. Others at the meeting leveled conspiratorial claims that the project is being crammed through in secret.
“When [my dad] passed away, the property in full was given to me,” Stotts said. “My motivation in February was to de-stress. I had no idea about the small development plan. For whatever it is worth … it was just time for me to switch.”
The 44th and France Small Area planning process is ongoing with a tentative completion date of Sept. 15.