Site plan approval for redevelopment in Coon Rapids

Site plan approval has been given by the Coon Rapids City Council for the redevelopment of the former McKay Lincoln Mercury and, more recently, the McKay Collision and Service site at Coon Rapids and Round Lake boulevards.

The council action paved the way for North Suburban Eye Specialists to build a 32,000 square-foot office building at 3789 Coon Rapids Blvd.

In other action Aug. 8, the council and the Coon Rapids Economic Development Authority (EDA) approved $400,000 in financial assistance from an existing tax increment financing (TIF) district pool to help pay for the demolition of the existing building and prepare the site for redevelopment.

North Suburban Eye Specialists, which currently has a clinic across the street, plans to occupy half the space and lease out the rest.

Construction on the $6 million project is planned to start this fall with opening in July 2013.

The council is excited about the project.

“It’s a fantastic development,” said Councilmember Scott Schulte.

And Councilmember Paul Johnson said he liked the fact that North Suburban Eye Specialists has worked closely with the developers of the Autumn Glen senior housing project that has been approved for the Frank’s Nursery site next door.

“They complement each other and that’s very neat,” he said.

A one-story building is proposed by North Suburban Eye Specialists on the 3.8-acre site, but it will feature raised parapets and articulations to the roof lines to provide for a two-story expression, while the main entrance to the building will be set off by a canopy and windows, according to Planner Scott Harlicker.

The exterior of the building will feature a variety of materials, including brick, stone, architectural metal, stucco and an architectural pre-cast limestone base, Harlicker wrote in his report to the council.

The applicant agreed to replace the planned EIFS (exterior insulation and finishing system) with stucco following discussion at the Planning Commission meeting.

Traffic access will be the same as it was for the businesses that previously occupied the site – full access on and off Round Lake Boulevard that will be shared with the senior housing project and a right-in, right-out access on Coon Rapids Boulevard.

Both streets can accommodate the traffic generated by the project, Harlicker wrote.

The only concern raised by the council was if Anoka County reconstructed the Coon Rapids and Round Lake boulevards intersection and in doing so, required that the existing median on Round Lake Boulevard be shifted farther north impact the access.

But Steve Gatlin, acting city manager and public services director, said that the county would be reviewing the access plan for the project since it kept the existing right-in, right-out on Coon Rapids Boulevard and would be able to comment at that time.

According to Harlicker, the site plan exceeds the required number of parking spaces – 166 whereas code calls for 149.

A storm water pond proposed for the project will be designed and constructed as a semi-dry rain garden, Harlicker told the council.

Under the proposed landscaping plan, overstory trees would be planted at 30-foot intervals along Coon Rapids Boulevard, not the 25 feet required by code, but with ornamental trees between them, which Harlicker said “will add interest” and which both staff and the commission recommended.

But as part of the conditions of site plan approval, the council did require five more ornamental trees to be planted along Round Lake Boulevard, as well two additional green space overstory trees, 21 street frontage shrubs and 128 more foundation shrubs along the Coon Rapids Boulevard building frontage.

The $400,000 in city TIF financing approved by both the council and EDA, which comprises the seven members of the council, will come from the cash balance in an existing TIF district, according to Matt Brown, city community development specialist.

No one spoke at the required public hearing before the council.

Staff believes that the project is a good candidate for financial assistance because it involves redevelopment of a vacant and unsightly building in an identified redevelopment area, Brown wrote in his report to the EDA.

Before the project is located in an existing TIF district, state law allows the use of existing cash balances for development projects that would not occur “but for” the assistance, he wrote.

“The grant provides the developer with cash up front, rather than over time,” Brown said.

Under the terms of the assistance, the clinic will relocate at least 45 jobs and create at least five new jobs, all full-time equivalent, between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2014.

“This is a great project that will expand the city’s tax base and provide jobs,” said Councilmember Bruce  Sanders.

Last month the Coon Rapids Planning Commission granted site plan approval extension for the 100-unit Autumn Glen senior housing project at 3707 Coon Rapids Blvd. on the Frank’s Nursery site.

Originally approved by the council and commission in August 2011, the site plan extension was required because construction had not started within a year of the original approval.

But, according to letter to the city from Mathew Frisbie, president of Frisbie Architects, Inc, the project architect, a fall construction start is the goal.

“We are anxious for the project to start,” said Community Development Director Marc Nevinski.

The 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.

In 2011, the council approved an economic development grant totaling $420,000 for the $19 million project 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.

Last month the council changed the way the $420,000 grant would be provided.

The new process is the same that the council and the EDA used to assist the North Suburban Eye Specialists project next door.

The 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.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]