Blaine City Council members recently considered a land use amendment for a proposed four-story, 175-unit market-rate general occupancy apartment building.
Bryan Schafer, planning and community development director, said the apartment site is north of the Teamsters Local 120 at 9422 Ulysses St. N.E.
Paul Tucci, vice president of development with Minnetonka-based Oppidan Investment Co., represented property owner Gonzalo Medina at a city council workshop Aug. 9.
“The site currently doesn’t have a land use designation that supports apartments,” Schafer said. “It’s zoned planned industrial-commerical. That’s the rationale for the property owner wanting to change his course. He’s owned the property for a number of years.”
According to Schafer, Oppidan has not submitted a project application, which would require a formal zoning proposal and conditional use permit from the city.
“[City] staff wanted to bring this forward with background issues and see council’s reaction,” Schafer said, specifically referring to underground parking stalls.
The concept plan is short on desired underground parking stalls, he said.
Four floors of apartments over the proposed at-grade parking structure would create a “very tall” building, Schafer said.
A fourth floor of units providing 43 apartments would push the total unit count over the number of available underground stalls. An overall parking ratio of 2.2 stalls per unit would be preferred.
Adding garages along the west property line would provide the necessary covered parking, Schafer said, but are not preferred as a long-term option by the city.
“Not every unit would have an underground parking stall,” Schafer said. “We think market-rate housing should have that. The math just doesn’t work when you add a fourth floor. It [still] would be a nicely designed building and should meet most of the requirements of a tenant who is looking for a market-rate housing.”
As proposed, the building would have a unit mix of 79 one-bedroom and 96 two-bedroom apartments.
Schafer said rents for similar new surburban apartment construction range from $850 for a single bedroom and $1,250 for two bedrooms. Typical unit sizes would be 671 square feet and 981 square feet.
According to Schafer, the site has limited commercial appeal because it is hidden to a degree from Highway 65 and an industrial use would be a poor choice given the current adjacent office uses and residential uses behind and to the north.
Based on estimated construction costs of $110,000 to $120,000 a unit, Tucci said the 175-unit building would cost an estimated $20 million. “You guys are really stepping out on a limb,” said Councilmember Russ Herbst.
Tucci said Medina had done a market study.
“We feel strongly the high-end, market-rate customers are there,” he said.
Schafer told the council the proposed apartment site would be affected by an east-west runway safety zone at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport.
“The very tip of Zone B covers most if not all of the proposed building,” Schafer said. “There’s no way on site to move the building around.
“There is a set of uses that the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Minnesota Department of Transportation would like to see in Zone B, which is a trapizoid as you go west.”
Schafer said Oppidan had additional work to do before submitting its project application to the city. During the Aug. 9 discussion, council members agreed.
Councilmember Wes Hovland was concerned about underground parking with a four-story building.
Councilmember Dick Swanson said apartments were a good use for the site.
“Nothing else will fit there,” Swanson said. “As far as the rent goes, this is purely market rate, which will make it a lot higher than the other subsidized rentals [in Blaine].”
Herbst said he wasn’t concerned about the apartment building height and liked the idea of adding more market-rate housing.
“It’s not public subsidy or Section 8,” Herbst said.
Mayor Tom Ryan said the proposed apartment rents weren’t that different from Blaine Courts and Cloverleaf Courts, city-owned senior apartments.
“We haven’t [seen] an apartment building built in 14 years. Sooner or later, we are going to have to take a look,” Ryan said. “Everybody’s short family space.”
Tim Hennagir is at firstname.lastname@example.org