Redevelopment of Coon Rapids nursery site moves forward

Redevelopment of adjacent parcels on Coon Rapids Boulevard at Round Lake Boulevard is ready to moved forward.

One is a senior housing project on the former Frank’s Nursery site and the other is a medical building on the parcel that formerly housed McKay Lincoln Mercury and McKay Collision and Service.

Winkelman Building Corporation, St. Cloud, received site plan approval and financial assistance from the Coon Rapids City Council in August 2011 for its Autumn Glen senior housing project on the former Frank’s Nursery site.

But the developer did not secure sufficient equity and financing until recently, according to Matt Brown, Coon Rapids community development specialist.

The approved project will be a 100-senior housing campus to be managed by Elk River-based Guardian Angels with 32 independent living units, 36 assisted living units and 32 memory care units with both underground and surface parking.

The project has not changed since last year’s approval and Winkelman Building Corporation is ready to break ground in July or August, Brown said.

When the project came before the council in August 2011, Matt Frisbie of Frisbie Architects, Inc., the designer of the project, said a 12-month construction period was planned.

But what has changed is the way in which the city will provide $420,000 in grant dollars to the $19 million construction project.

The city grant will be used to pay for demolishing the existing Frank’s Nursery and other site preparation work before construction can begin, according to Brown.

In 2011, the council approved an economic development grant funded by existing cash balances in tax increment financing (TIF) districts for the project, Brown said.

This funding mechanism was made possible by a TIF law passed by the 2010 Minnesota Legislature which gave cities the authority to pool cash balances from TIF districts for job-creating projects.

But the deadline for using that funding source has passed and the Legislature did not renew the program in 2012, Brown said.

However, the project location lies within a TIF district in Coon Rapids that has a cash balance and state law allows the city to draw on the balance for projects that would not occur “but for” the assistance, he said.

The $420,000 in TIF assistance was approved unanimously by both the city council and the Coon Rapids Economic Development (EDA) following public hearings at which no one appeared.

According to Brown, the Autumn Glen project is a good candidate for financial assistance because it involves removing “a vacant and unsightly” building, creating permanent jobs and temporary construction jobs and will meet the city’s housing goals.

Winkelman Building Corporation has completed several senior housing projects, including facilities in Forest Lake, Lonsdale, Olivia, Owatonna and Willmar.

Guardian Angels has been in business since 1965 when it opened a care center in Elk River with skilled nursing care to serve seniors.

Now it also has assisted living facilities, memory care suites, subsidized and market rate senior housing, an active adult cooperative, adult day services, home health care and hospice care at various locations in Elk River plus facilities in Becker and Zimmerman.

Next door to the senior housing project will be a medical building.

North Suburban Eye Specialists, which is currently located across Coon Rapids Boulevard from the former McKay Lincoln Mercury/McKay Collision and Service building, has submitted a site plan to the city for a 32,000 square-foot medical building on that parcel.

According to Scott Harlicker, Coon Rapids planner, North Suburban Eye Specialists needs more space.

It will occupy about half the building, leasing out the rest, Harlicker said.

The site plan will be on the Coon Rapids Planning Commission agenda Thursday, July 19 with a recommendation going to the council for action at its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 8, he said.

Harlicker does not anticipate any issues that would prevent the project from being approved, he said.

The site plan needs council approval because it is located in Port Wellness, one of the four development/redevelopment ports created along Coon Rapids Boulevard by the council when it approved a Coon Rapids Boulevard Framework Plan a decade ago.

“North Suburban Eye Specialists is anxious to get started on the project as soon as city approvals are given,” Harlicker said.

In addition, Brown is working with North Suburban Eye Specialists for $400,000 in city TIF financing from the cash balance in the same TIF district, he said.

That proposal is also expected to go to the council and EDA for approval Aug. 8, Brown said.

The city assistance will be used for the same purpose as the senior housing project – removal of the existing building and site preparation, according to Brown.

Having the two projects, while separate, but side by side, in progress simultaneously has its advantages in sorting out cross-easements and storm water issues, Brown said.

North Suburban Eye Specialists offers services in general ophthalmology, refractive surgery (lasik, ICLs, phakic IOLs, clear lensectomy, etc.), cataract surgery and glaucoma surgery.

It also has subspecialists available to treat retinal, oculoplastic and corneal diseases as well as Botox and Juvederm treatments.

Besides its clinic in Coon Rapids, North Suburban Eye Specialists recently opened a new state-of-the-art clinic in the Blaine Medical Center Building off Highway 65 and 117th Avenue.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]