Coon Rapids gets grant for planning

The city of Coon Rapids has been successful in a second attempt to secure a Metropolitan Council grant for a planning project at the Foley Boulevard Park and Ride and potential future Foley Station site.

The grant through the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Transit Oriented Development (TOD) program totals $40,000 and is good for two years.

It was approved by the Metropolitan Council Dec. 12 following a recommendation from the council’s community development committee.

According to a Metropolitan Council staff report, this project is an example of station area planning for transit-oriented development near commuter rail.

The Foley project was one of three predevelopment grants that received funding; another 10 development grant applications were approved.

Pre-development projects were scored on their ability to spur development or redevelopment in the future.

A second grant request was turned down. That was $230,000 for a development project in the Riverdale Station that would have involved construction of a trail to enhance pedestrian access to the existing Northstar Commuter Rail station from the residential neighborhood across the railroad tracks from the station.

According to the Metropolitan Council staff recommendation, there is no development associated with the new infrastructure, which would serve only an existing single-family neighborhood, rather than the TOD area that has been master planned by the city.

Both projects had been rejected by the Metropolitan Council when grant applications were made earlier this year.

The Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Act Transit Oriented Development (TOD) program is a new funding source to enhance TOD development in and around light rail, commuter rail and bus transit stations, according to Matt Brown, city community development specialist.

For the Foley Boulevard area, the city will use the grant dollars for land use planning, market analysis, pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure planning, future street planning and creating a land acquisition and development staging plan.

The city plans to retain a consultant to do the work and provide the necessary $10,000 match through in-kind work at the staff level.

“At present… the area is generally an automobile-oriented environment with poor pedestrian connections, obsolete land uses and low density development,” Brown wrote in his grant request.

According to Brown, the city’s comprehensive plan identifies the area as a potential TOD site and major employment district and both the city and Anoka County have started land banking in the area.

“It is envisioned that the TOD area will be redeveloped as a transit supportive employment district with multi-modal connections to the neighboring Evergreen industrial area and Northtown Mall employment centers,” Brown wrote.

“The TOD project will also establish non-motorized connections to residential areas surrounding the TOD area, including major redevelopment sites for high-density residential development.”

The area to be covered in the study will be 60 to 70 acres including property either side of Foley Boulevard from Coon Rapids Boulevard to East River Road, property the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority has acquired in the area for the possible Foley Station site and land north of TH 610, according to Brown.

The planning will also involve taking into account the county’s future plans for an overpass at the Foley Boulevard railroad tracks, Brown said.

“We want to identify the infrastructure improvements that will be needed when the time comes for development,” he said.

Planning in the potential future Foley Station area is also part of a grant application the city submitted a few weeks ago to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to Community Development Director Marc Nevinski.

The city is hoping to hear within a couple of months the fate of that request, Nevinski said.

The purpose of this grant application is an area-wide planning project along the Coon Rapids Boulevard corridor – land use and infrastructure planning plus market analysis, Brown said.

The potential grant would be some $175,000 and the city hired the consulting firm of Hoisington Koegler Group to prepare the grant application after sending out requests for qualification.