Coon Rapids land in Port Riverwalk soon on market

The city of Coon Rapids hopes to be marketing the 31 acres of city-owned vacant land south of Coon Rapids Boulevard in Port Riverwalk by the end of the year.

riverwalk 2by4.5 b:wThe Coon Rapids City Council at a work session Sept. 10 gave the green light for the Coon Rapids Planning Commission to consider approval of the updated master plan for Port Riverwalk at its October meeting before the council takes final action, probably at its first meeting in November.

That would clear the way for a series of short-term implementation steps for the redevelopment of Port Riverwalk, which lies north and south of Coon Rapids Boulevard from Egret Boulevard to East River Road.

One of those initial steps would be to market the vacant land on the boulevard, primarily west of Avocet Street.

After Port Riverwalk was created in 2002 – one of four ports identified for development and redevelopment along the boulevard – 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, according to Community Development Specialist Matt Brown.

But a large residential development on the 31 acres proposed by Rottlund Homes and approved by the council in 2006 for 240 townhomes and a 60-unit senior condominium building never got off the ground when the housing market turned sour, and the approved site plan lapsed in 2007

Rottlund Homes has since gone out of business.

In 2008, the Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which comprises the seven members of the city council, negotiated a memorandum of understanding with Shamrock Development, which had been the development partner with Rottlund.

But with the country gripped by recession the time frame for Shamrock Development to complete a master plan for the site was put off, Brown said.

However, the memorandum of understanding with Shamrock Development remains in place, according to Marc Nevinski, city community development director.

And once the council approves the updated Port Riverwalk master plan, Shamrock will have the opportunity to present a master plan for development of the 31 acres within 60 days.

Both Jim Stanton, owner of Coon Rapids-based Shamrock Development, and Jerry Teeson, commercial-industrial real estate consultant for Shamrock Development, were at the council’s Sept. 10 work session.

The revised Port Riverwalk master plan focuses on housing for the 31 acres, with some opportunities for mixed-use development, Nevinski said.

The housing could include multi-story buildings, senior housing and villas, he said.

“There’s no market for townhomes right now,” Nevinski said.

But whatever is proposed, the build-out is likely to take many years, he said.

The updated master plan includes a backage road rather than the existing frontage road on the south side of the boulevard with housing frontage the boulevard, according to Nevinski.

The council Sept. 10 gave staff direction to move ahead with the possible acquisition of three apartment buildings at 9864-9950 East River Road east of Avocet Street.

“These are small one-bedroom apartments in single-story buildings,” Brown said.

But the council is not interested at this time in acquiring property on the north side of Coon Rapids Boulevard, according to Brown.

They are the former Anoka County Rent-All site now owned by Anoka County at 1531 Coon Rapids Blvd., the commercial building at 1449 Coon Rapids Blvd. and the vacant car wash building at 1521 Coon Rapids Blvd.

The updated master plan also includes a proposal 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, Brown said.

“The master plan focuses on improving connections among recreational amenities to maximize demand for new development,” he said.

In addition, the plan proposes improvements to the Al Flynn Park and Clayhole area, including clearing scrub and providing better pedestrian access, as well as working with Anoka County to enhance the pedestrian crossing at Coon Rapids Boulevard and Avocet, Brown said.

The city used grant money from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through its brownfields assessment program to hire consultant Stantec to lead the planning process for both the Port Riverwalk and Port Campus Square master plan updates.

The revised Port Campus Square master plan was approved earlier this year.

In each case, a steering committee was set up comprising members of the Coon Rapids Planning Commission, neighborhood residents and nearby business and property owners to guide the process, Brown said.

In addition, for the Port Riverwalk master plan update, Councilmembers Paul Johnson and Steve Wells, the city manager and the chairperson of the planning commission were part of a policy advisory committee, he said.

According to Brown, prior to developing the master plans, Stantec prepared a market study for the Coon Rapids Boulevard corridor to see what the demand was for development in the two ports.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]