Anoka going for historic look with rail station parking ramp

The city of Anoka is looking at options to upgrade the look of a new parking ramp planned for the Northstar Commuter Rail station.

Plans have been taking shape for the $9 million ramp, which will largely be funded by a $5.85 million federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant. The remaining cost of the ramp will be paid for by the city of Anoka, the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority and potentially a $2 million grant from the Counties Transportation Improvement Board (CTIB), which will be decided this fall.

But those financial commitments are for a basic ramp and any aesthetic upgrades will be on the city’s dime.

So far, designs that fit within the existing construction budget have not been met with a lot of enthusiasm from the Anoka City Council.

After seeing an early draft of more contemporary designs, the council asked contracted designer Kimley Horn and Associates, working with Miller Dunwiddie architects, for a more historic look for the ramp.

They came back with three options, ranging from a within budget alternative to upgrades that could cost as much as $1.5 million.

After being presented with a few different options, the council directed the consultants to come up with a compromise between a designs that cost between $600,000 and as much as $1.5 million.

According to City Manager Tim Cruikshank, that cost is likely to be around $900,000 to build a ramp that has more historic look in this developing neighborhood.

“In Anoka we’re not a typical community,” said Cruikshank. “We have things that not all cities have and we have a rich history here. We have some obligations to honor that.”

Cruikshank points to the way the public safety center and downtown parking ramp were built as an example of how Anoka has tried to maintain the city’s historic look and feel.

The aesthetic upgrades to the rail station parking ramp will be paid for out of revenues generated by the TIF district where the ramp is located. Initially they will come from the tax revenue increases created by the Volunteers of American senior housing campus, currently under construction.

The city hopes the new ramp will set the tone for new and redevelopment in the Commuter Rail Transit Village.

“When people get off the train in Anoka, they are going to know they are in Anoka,” said Cruikshank about the distinct design of the future rail station.

Architects looked to buildings like Anoka’s historic train depot, Gould’s Jewelers and the Anoka State Hospital and nearby creamery building for inspiration.

The city also has put in place design standards for that area, said Cruikshank, and is striving to meet them.

The city is planning an open house July 18, specifically targeting the business owners in the neighborhood of the ramp to contribute design suggestions.

The next step will be a review of the design and site plan by the city’s planning commission. The council will then be presented with the plans in late August for final approval.

There will not be another work session in between.

“I think we have a pretty good idea of what the council wants,” said Cruikshank.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]