Coon Rapids hires consultant to plan around park and ride

The Coon Rapids City Council has hired a consultant to do planning work in the area of the Metro Transit park and ride facility on Foley Boulevard south of Coon Rapids Boulevard.

Minneapolis-based Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc. was recommended by staff after four responses were received from a request for proposal sent out by the city in July, and all were interviewed.

While Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc. is the lead consultant, the project team will also include SEH as the engineering subconsultant.

The city has received a $40,000 Livable Communities Act transit-oriented development grant from the Metropolitan Council grant for pre-development activities near the park and ride.

According to Matt Brown, city community development specialist, the grant requires a 25 percent city match, which will come from in-kind contribution of city staff time, not cash.

The intent of the grant program is to focus development around light rail, commuter rail and high-frequency bus transit stations, Brown wrote in a report to the council.

“The city will use the grant funds for land use and infrastructure planning near the transit station to prepare the area for redevelopment and improve access to the station,” he wrote.

Hoisington Koegler Group was chosen because the project team is “most qualified and offers the best approach to the project,” Brown wrote.

Work on the planning study will begin this month and be completed by June 2014.

The study will include land use planning, market analysis, pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure planning, future street planning and creating a land acquisition and development staging plan.

“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 to the Metropolitan Council.

According to Brown, the city’s comprehensive plan identifies the area as a potential transit-oriented development site and major employment district and both the city and Anoka County have done some land banking in the area.

“It is envisioned that the transit-oriented development 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 transit-oriented development project will also establish non-motorized connections to residential areas surrounding the area, including major redevelopment sites for high-density residential development.”

The area covered in the study is 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.

The county has sought federal funding for the overpass project more than once without success.

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

The grant agreement with the Metropolitan Council requires that planning activities be done by December 2014.

According to Brown, the planning process will involve the council, key stakeholders and the public.

There will be meetings with businesses and property owners in the area, development and real estate experts and a design workshop to engage area residents and other stakeholders, Brown wrote.

“The final plan is expected to be adopted in the city’s comprehensive plan and will offer recommendations to facilitate new development near the Foley Boulevard station,” he wrote.

The Foley Boulevard park and ride has 3,200 parking space with both surface parking and a two-story parking ramp.

It is also close by the proposed Foley rail station just east of the Burlington-Northern Santa-Fe Railroad crossing on Foley.

A rail station at that location has been proposed as part of any expansion of the Northstar Commuter Rail line and the proposed Northern Lights Express passenger rail project through Anoka County from Minneapolis to Duluth-Superior.

However, the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority is no longer part of the Northern Lights Express planning group.

And expansion of rail service would require a third main rail line to be constructed from the Coon Creek Junction in Coon Rapids, just west of Foley, to I-694 in Fridley.

Efforts in the past have been unsuccessful in obtaining federal dollars for the third main project.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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