Elliot Park eyesore to be renovated condos

Updated: April 24, 2007 - 2:43 pm

The long-vacant Lenox Building, a 110-year-old Elliot Park brownstone, has joined Downtown's long list of condo conversion projects.

Ned Abdul, owner of Minneapolis-based Swervo Development Corp., has plans for 24 flat-style lofts in the three-story brownstone at 521 S. 9th St. The building is located on Downtown's southeastern edge.

Developers have begun demolition at the site, which involves building a new roof destroyed by a fire.

Abdul said the lofts should be ready for residents by fall. Prices will range from $260,000 to $290,000.

The city's Heritage Preservation Commission, a citizen advisory panel to the City Council, approved Abdul's building use Jan. 13 on the condition that it approves final design plans.

The Lenox building has long been a neighborhood eyesore, standing vacant for years. It faced condemnation in the mid-1990s and had a reputation for attracting criminal activity, said David Fields, the community development coordinator for the Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc. (EPNI).

The nonprofit developer, Central Community Housing Trust, which sold the property to Abdul for $870,000, had floated several plans before the neighborhood group. Most called for rental units in the Lenox, but Fields said the EPNI pressed for owner-occupied units.

St. Louis Park-based Apex Asset Management Corp., the developer of the 327-unit, $100 million Grant Park condo tower in Elliot Park, also eyed the site for redevelopment, Fields said, but it backed off when it faced difficulty securing other properties on the block, which spans between Portland and Park avenues.

Neighborhood leaders are pleased to see plans for the Lenox finally moving forward.

"To us, it kind of represents the crown jewel of the 9th Street Historic District. It's probably the most distinctive of our historic buildings," Fields said, adding that he hopes the project inspires other development on the block.

The Lenox rehab comes as Elliot Park is undergoing a building boom -- one that could bring an additional 1,000 residents to the neighborhood. The Lenox is just blocks away from the Grant Park development, a 27-story condo complex nearing completion on Downtown's southeastern edge near the entrance to Interstate 35W. A Chicago developer has plans for a 25-story, 290-unit tower just west of the Lenox.

Most of Elliot Park's signature brownstones feature reddish stone facades with basic brick on the back. The Lenox building has a brownstone exterior all the way around.

Local architect Frederick Clark designed the building in 1894 for Frank Linne, president of the Twin City Lime and Cement Company. It originally contained 24 flats with hardwood floors and fireplaces and then was converted to 70 single rooms during the Depression years.

Musicians and artists in town to play for the orchestra stayed at the Lenox in its early days, according to the building's lore.

The rehab, which involves asbestos remediation, will cost millions, said Mike Roess, a real estate agent. Changes include new windows, entrances and front stairs. Plans also call for underground parking.

Swervo Development Corp. has another condo project underway a few blocks from the Metrodome. Plans are underway to convert the seven-story American Trio building, 616 S. 3rd St., to a 66-unit condo complex. The project will include a bar/restaurant on the first floor.

Prices at the American Trio building will range from $250,000 to $350,000.