By Anne Holzman
The Amber Union apartments in the old TIES building could be poised for a big addition.
The Falcon Heights Planning Commission, at its Oct. 24 meeting, voted to support Buhl Investors’ proposal to add 100 apartments in a new building it has dubbed Union Flats. The Amber Union complex is located at Larpenteur and Snelling avenues.
The commission’s unanimous recommendation was expected to go to the Falcon Heights City Council for consideration at its Nov. 15 meeting. (That meeting occurred after the Bugle’s December deadline).
Buhl Investors purchased the historic site from the city of Falcon Heights in 2019 and renovated the original office building, an architectural landmark, and the adjacent service building.
Amber Union, opened in fall 2022 with 125 apartments available at various income levels.
At that time, Buhl also acquired the TIES building’s overflow parking lot to the west of those buildings. Buhl now seeks permission to build Amber Flats, a new apartment building, on that lot. These units, too, are proposed to fit with affordable housing guidelines.
After a proposal to include a coffee shop in a new building was rejected last spring, Buhl returned to the city a few weeks later with a plan including only apartments. Because of some remaining issues around building height and parking, city staff referred the proposal to the Planning Commission.
In her memo to the planning commissioners for their Oct. 24 hearing, city development director Hannah Lynch stated, “The deviations from city code are not overly concerning.”
At the hearing, neighbors voiced concerns about, among other things, parking, pedestrian safety and police calls to the existing Amber Union buildings.
The Amber Flats proposal includes a mix of underground and surface parking totaling 114 spaces, short of the 200 required by the city code. City staff justified the shortfall by citing access to multiple public transportation options close by.
The Amber Flats proposal, which includes sidewalk improvements and landscaping, also reduces the overall amount of impervious surface from the current parking lot. Staff noted that affordable housing and reduction of impervious surfaces are two goals of the city’s comprehensive plan.
The city council had the option in November of extending the consideration period into January. They are not required to conduct further public hearings.
Anne Holzman is a Bugle freelance writer who covers Falcon Heights government news.
Photo credit: Developers of Amber Union are planning an addition to the site called Amber Flats. Photo by Lou Michaels.