Green light - Issue 15 - Magazine | Monocle

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Fifty-five restaurants line the stretch of Minneapolis’s Nicollet Avenue, known as Eat Street. Just imagine all the waste cooking oil and grease they produce. The trio behind property firm Kandiyohi Development Partners did just that, and they saw an intriguing possibility. If things go their way, the street’s plentiful food waste will end up at their neighbouring Icehouse Redevelopment, a planned $25m (€16m) business and entertainment complex. Here, an anaerobic digester will convert it in to electricity. “They’re throwing out these great, over-the-top ideas,” says Gretchen Camp at BKV Group, the project’s architecture firm. “With most green projects I’ve worked on it’s been about buying green power, not producing it.”

Kandiyohi (pronounced can-de-OH-hi) specialises in green, creative approaches to property development. The Icehouse Redevelopment is a solid example of the large-scale urban infill projects they take on. The site covers half a block, south of Minneapolis’s skyscrapers, in a neighbourhood where smart bistros sit alongside Asian grocery stores. It is framed by two buildings on opposite ends of an old parking lot – a two-storey brick building on Nicollet Avenue and, set back from the street, a century-old icehouse once used to preserve slabs of ice taken from nearby lakes in winter and then used during sweltering Minnesota summers. “It’s this massive building – three feet of brick lined in cork, and no windows. We thought, ‘What in the world are we going to do with this thing?’” says Michael Krause, one of the company’s founders, about the icehouse.

The solution emerged from a redevelopment plan that requires a new-build four-storey building above underground parking (the city is a long way off giving up cars), along busy Nicollet Avenue. This building will house a hotel, office space for small businesses and independent shops (“The neighbourhood won’t have it,” Craig Wilson, a Kandiyohi partner, says about chains coming here).

The new build’s austere façade will give way to a landscaped courtyard and a second-storey mezzanine, open to the public. “The idea isn’t to keep it hidden, but to instil discovery,” Krause says. “You venture in, then all of a sudden, wow!” Meanwhile the icehouse, currently used as a recording studio, will be an events centre for the hotel and the area. Kandiyohi is courting the ACE Hotel Group to run the new hotel. The firm has a reputation for recognising beauty in quirky locations, such as Portland’s Vaseline Alley and a desolate section of Broadway in New York (no deal was confirmed at press time).

Green ideas for the rest of the project include dedicated bike parking space, locally sourced and recycled materials, and maximum use of solar power. But there’s more. There’s the aforementioned anaerobic digester, along with a proposed deciduous green wall, able to cool in the summer then drop its leaves to allow heat in the winter; storm water collection for the hotel’s laundry services; and possibly a green-fuelled bus to the city centre.

The project will break ground this autumn. Despite the US property market slump, the Kandiyohi team feel they will ride the storm. “If there’s any sector of the economy that’s still strong, it’s renewable energy,” Krause says.

Krause and his two business partners, Wilson and Kim Havey, met through very different, though similarly environmental-minded, careers in local government and politics. A decade ago, Havey and Krause bought some idyllic southwestern Minnesota farmland, complete with lake shoreline, oak savannah and eagles soaring overhead. Here, the three friends talked about their jobs, the frustratingly bureaucratic nature of public service, and the future. Eventually, they decided to start a company, naming it after the county in which the farm sits.

“It’s a Lakota [American Indian] name that we interpret as, ‘land of milk and honey,’” Havey says. “It’s about prosperity and sustainability. Our timing couldn’t be any better.”

Urbanism II: remaking Harlem

Development in New York is a bloodsport. The stakes are high but the barriers to entry are low – anyone is free to speak, however extreme. Nowhere is this truer than Harlem, where the ghosts of great black New Yorkers – Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, W.E.B. DuBois, and dozens more – haunt the streets. But unlike other iconic neighbourhoods, such as Greenwich Village or Brooklyn Heights, Harlem has long had far less investment than it needs.

Take 125th Street, the famous African-American commercial corridor that runs the width of Harlem, from the East River to the Hudson. Despite a few successes – a $350m (€222m) retail investment by ex-NBA star Magic Johnson, new chain stores – the street’s comeback is far from certain. Restaurants close, leaving empty space.

When the Bloomberg administration proposed re-zoning 125th Street for mixed-use development, there was an angry response. The local community board argued against any residential development, saying it would drive out small retail businesses. In fact, it would get them customers.

Planning chair Amanda Burden finally got the 125th Street proposal passed in April, but the Bloomberg administration will have to set aside about 46 per cent of the proposed 3,858 new apartment units for families on low income. Height limits on new builds have been reduced from 29 stories to 19. “Well, the Old Harlem, which wants to keep everything frozen in time, fears the New Harlem,” says Faith Hope Consolo, chair for retail real estate at Prudential Douglas Elliman. “Harlem needs more bodies. If there’s no one living upstairs, there’s no one to shop downstairs.”

Julia Vitullo-Martin is a director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development

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