County board approves skyway in Coon Rapids

The final approval needed for the first skyway to be built in Coon Rapids came at the Anoka County Board meeting June 25.

On a recommendation from its Public Works Committee, the county board unanimously approved a license agreement with Coon Rapids Healthcare Investors LLC to construct the skyway in the county right of way on part of Coon Rapids Boulevard.

In early May the Coon Rapids City Council approved a site plan for the skyway construction to connect Mercy Hospital with the new Allina medical building now under construction on the north side of the boulevard.

The license agreement with the county was needed because it will pass over Coon Rapids Boulevard, which is a county state aid highway, according to Doug Fischer, county highway engineer.

County approval was required even though the skyway would be built over the right of way, not in it, Fischer said.

The license agreement was patterned after the one the county has with Medtronic for its skyway linking company buildings on Old Central Avenue (County State Aid Highway 35) in Fridley, he said.

The agreement, which contains language involving shared liability, is in effect in perpetuity, unless it is canceled by either the county or the license holder, at which point the skyway would have to be removed, Fischer said.

“I don’t anticipate that happening,” he said.

The only concern for the county, which was addressed by the site plan, was to make sure the skyway would be of sufficient height over the boulevard to avoid any traffic impacts, Fischer said.

The skyway will have no pillars or any potential vertical obstructions that would cause a problem, he said.

“It’s a straight horizontal span over the boulevard, some 150 feet which is longer than the Medtronic skyway, which is about 100 feet,” Fischer said.

According to David Moga, project manager for Pope Architects, Inc., the architect for both the medical building and skyway, plans are to have the skyway open at the same time that the medical building is ready for occupancy, which is anticipated in early February 2014.

The contractor, Kraus-Anderson, is expected to start digging the footings for the skyway in the next month or two, Moga said.

“You can expect to see steel across Coon Rapids Boulevard by the end of the year or sooner than that,” he said.

“The medical building project is moving full steam ahead.”

According to County Commissioner Scott Schulte, the medical building and skyway projects will “change the horizon” on Coon Rapids Boulevard and bode well for development on the boulevard and in Coon Rapids and Anoka County as well, Schulte said.

The skyway will connect the south side of the medical office building at the southeast corner with the north side of the hospital near the main entrance, said Coon Rapids Planner Scott Harlicker.

The skyway will extend 300 feet from the south side of the office building across Coon Rapids Boulevard, it will then run 160 feet parallel to the south side of Coon Rapids Boulevard and then 80 feet south into the hospital, he wrote in a report to the commission.

A small addition will be constructed by the main hospital entrance for the skyway connection, Harlicker said.

There will be 18 feet of clearance between the bottom of the skyway and Coon Rapids Boulevard.

The current overhead utility lines will be moved underground, except for the cable line, which will remain above ground and run under the skyway, Harlicker said.

Some of the evergreen trees in front of the hospital on Coon Rapids Boulevard will have to be removed to accommodate the skyway, he said.

The exterior of the skyway will be a mix of gray, red and beige architectural metal panels and glass windows, Harlicker said.

The supports will be concrete covered with a gray architectural metal panel; the bottom four feet will be exposed aggregate, he wrote in his report.

According to Harlicker, the existing monument at the hospital sign will be removed and incorporated into the design of the support pillars adjacent to the hospital.

Mercy Specialty Center will be a 120,000 square-foot, multi-specialty medical building.

The four-story building has a $22 million price tag and is being paid for by Allina Health, of which Mercy is a part.

Features of the building include a drop-off entrance, plenty of parking, hands-free entrances, extra-wide corridors, elevators and suite entrances.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]