Coon Rapids’ Port Riverwalk master plan is being updated

Anoka County is ready to sell a vacant parcel it owns at the intersection of Coon Rapids and Egret boulevards to the city of Coon Rapids.

But the city is not quite ready yet to take ownership of the property.

That’s because the city is in the throes of updating its Port Riverwalk master plan for a section of Coon Rapids Boulevard for future development and redevelopment. This particular parcel is part of Port Riverwalk, according to Matt Brown, city community development specialist.

The Anoka County Board, on the recommendation of its Public Works Committee, took action July 9 to sell the parcel at 1531 Coon Rapids Blvd. to the city.

The cost would be $207,000 which is the appraised value of the lot, minus the existing building, which the county will demolish, Brown said.

The county purchased the property in 2005 as part of right of way acquisition for its project to upgrade the intersection of Coon Rapids and Egret boulevards.

The county allowed the Anoka-Coon Rapids Boxing Club to use the building for a while before it found the club new quarters on Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids.

Until recently, the building had been used by the county surveyor’s office field crew, but it has now moved to a new location.

The property is vacant and the county does not have a current and/or future need for this property, the county board was told.

According to Brown, the city has interest in acquiring the property as part of the Port Riverwalk redevelopment plans.

But the Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) won’t be asked to approve the purchase agreement for the time being, according to Brown.

“We plan to hold off for a while,” Brown said.

The Coon Rapids City Council, which comprises the housing and redevelopment authority, has expressed reluctance about purchasing more property along the boulevard while the updating of the Port Riverwalk master plan takes place, he said.

Staff and a task force that has been working on the master plan hosted a neighborhood meeting last week to present the proposed master plan update concepts and it was attended by some 100 people, Brown said.

The updated plan proposes mostly housing in the area because the commercial market is soft right now, according to Brown.

These include multi-family, villas or detached townhomes and multi-story condominiums.

“The proposals were generally well received,” he said.

And there was a lot of interest from those present that about the trail connection that has been included in the plan to link the Coon Creek Trail to the north with the Mississippi River Regional Trail in the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park to the south, according to Brown.

The master plan update will be considered by the Coon Rapids Planning Commission and then the council before being adopted.

Under the proposed update, the parcel at 1531 Coon Rapids Blvd., is designated for mixed use, which means either commercial or residential, Brown said.

The lot is current surrounded by the L-shaped property on which the now-closed Regal car wash business operated.

And to make a viable parcel for redevelopment, the two pieces of property would likely have to be combined, Brown said.

Prior to being purchased by the county for the intersection project, the parcel housed an equipment rental business and before that was occupied by a gas station, according to Brown.

Port Riverwalk was one of four areas along the Coon Rapids Boulevard which were earmarked for development or redevelopment in the Coon Rapids Boulevard framework plan approved by the council more than a decade ago.

The four areas were designated as ports, an acronym for Preservation Or Renovation Tract.

Besides Port Riverwalk, there are Port Wellness, Port Campus Square and Port Evergreen.

After Port Riverwalk was created, the city acquired property, particularly on the south side of the boulevard, demolished buildings (the old Coon Rapids Shopper Center and surrounding buildings) and cleaned up soil contamination between 2000 and 2005, according to Brown.

But a large residential development for much of that area which was approved by the council in 2006 never got off the ground when the housing market slumped.

Since then, the city has hosted a series of workshops for area residents to help shape the site’s future, Brown said.

And earlier this year, a task force was created to work on updating the Port Riverwalk master plan, he said.

The task force comprises two members of the planning commission and a member of the Coon Rapids Sustainability Commission as well as residents and business owners in the area.

When the master plan update is complete, the city plans to sell the land it owns in Port Riverwalk as market conditions improve, Brown said.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]