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U-Haul at Odds With Minneapolis Officials Over Self-Storage Conversion Plan

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Phoenix-based U-Haul International Inc., which operates more than 1,400 self-storage locations across North America, is at odds with Minneapolis officials over a conversion project it’s pursuing in the Longfellow neighborhood. The 1.74-acre parcel U-Haul owns at 42nd Street and Hiawatha Avenue includes a former Mobil Gas Station it would like to use as part of its new 131,755-square-foot facility; however, the city wishes the structure to be razed. U-Haul’s vision includes restoring the station to its 1960s glory and using it as a management office and retail showroom.

The U-Haul plan includes demolishing a 48,750-square-foot former factory to make room for a new five-story structure. While the city seems favorable toward the development, officials made a recommendation in April for U-Haul to also knock down the gas station and move the new construction to the northwest corner of the site “to allow for future development on the south end of the block,” principal city planner Hilary Dvorak told the source.

U-Haul subsequently started a petition to save the Mobil station, which had gathered 188 signatures in May. Though the building isn’t a dedicated city landmark, U-Haul views it as historically significant and in line with the company’s roots.

“We started the petition just to show that there are people that want to still preserve some history on that street,” said Chris Bohlman, marketing company president for U-Haul Co. of Southern Minnesota.

While the project is stalled, U-Haul is trying to get a traffic study approved before going back in front of the planning commission, Bohlman told the source. Though self-storage is permitted on the site, conditional-use permits are required for truck rentals and the height of the main building, since the neighborhood has a limitation of four stories.

The height of the structure is a sticking point with the neighborhood development and transportation committee of the Longfellow Community Council (LCC), a citizen group serving the Cooper, Hiawatha, Howe and Longfellow neighborhoods. The group also objects to parking rental trucks on the property. The LCC believes the community would prefer to see retail or housing in the area and outlined its opposition to the project in a letter to the city planning commission, executive director Melanie Majors told the source.

Established in 1945, U-Haul owns and manages more than 52 million square feet of storage space. The company’s corporate sustainability initiatives, which support infill development to help local communities lower their carbon footprint, has led to dozens of conversion projects in recent years.

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