Anoka narrows plan for rail station parking ramp design

The Anoka City Council has narrowed its sights on a design for a ramp the city plans to build at the Northstar Commuter Rail station.

Kimley-Horn and Associates, contracted to design the ramp, took previous suggestions and came up with an alternative that was presented to the city council last Monday during a workshop.

The council, along with city staff, favored the new option that has three levels of parking with room for expansion and a skyway connection to act as a pedestrian overpass.

According to Jon Horn, vice president of the firm, the estimated cost of this option is $8.55 million – or $25,100 per parking space. The ramp will accommodate 341 vehicles.

“We can do that project every close that budget of $8.35 million,” said Horn, referring to the city’s construction budget on the ramp.

This alternative keeps bus traffic separate from other drivers using the station and allows for the development of a 15,000 square-foot retail building along with surface parking.

Late last month the council signed off on a joint powers agreement with the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority, which has agreed to contribute $575,000 in funding for the ramp and pedestrian overpass.

The rail authority has also submitted a grant application on behalf of Anoka to the Counties Transportation Improvement Board (CTIB) for an additional $2 million in funding.

The bulk of the ramp is being paid for by a $5.85 million federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant the city successfully applied for back in 2005.

The city is expecting to kick in nearly $1 million in from budgeted tax increment financing revenues.

More work needed 

on ramp’s ‘look’

While there was agreement on the layout of the parking ramp, the council was not satisfied with preliminary architectural designs presented. The council has asked architectural firm Miller Dunwiddie to come up with more options that have more of a historical look.

“I don’t want us to do the wrong thing, this building is going to be with us for a long, long time,” said Councilmember Jeff Weaver.

He also questioned how the city can build a ramp that doesn’t follow design standards consistent with what will be required of other builders as the commuter rail transit village develops. Concepts presented last week included colors and designs embedded in precast concrete that did not add any cost to the current budget.

“I want to make sure we lead by example,” said Weaver.

Horn said last week’s sketches were a starting point, as the council members had not given much direction on what they wanted the ramp to look like.

But any design aesthetics over and above a basic parking ramp will need to be paid for by the city.

And Councilmember Mark Freeburg was concerned about adding to the costs.

“That troubles me – all of the sudden the price is going up,” said Freeburg. “I was OK with the basic architectural look. That’s what I was sold.”

According to City Manager Tim Cruikshank, tax increment financing revenues from the The Homestead at Anoka project currently under construction by the Volunteers of America will generate an additional $1 million that could be used for upgrades to the parking ramp. This is over and above TIF revenues that have already been earmarked to pay for Anoka’s share of the ramp construction.

The city has been challenged because this area, which is ready for new development, does not have much of an identity.

“This might be what points us to where it’s going,” said Planning Director Carolyn Braun on the look of the future ramp.

Councilmember Carl Anderson agreed the ramp should have more of a historic appearance in both style and color.

“I think we want to stay old world,” said Anderson. “If we go modern in this old town we’ll be making a mistake.”

But Anoka resident Pat Walker said this could be a chance for the city to do something new.

“Don’t get too sold on having this old and historic,” said Walker. “There is an advantage to having a contrast. You cheapen it by making a new structure look like an old structure.”

The council is expected to review more designs at its June 25 work session.

Horn said they would come back with a variety of architectural options with a range of costs.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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