Ideas for development around Foley Boulevard transit area discussed

Preliminary ideas for developing 60 to 70 acres around the Foley Boulevard transit area were presented at a meeting called a charrette at the Coon Rapids City Center Jan. 8.

Three preliminary ideas on development and infrastructure improvements for the area were created in the morning and presented to property owners and other stakeholders at the charrette, which took place in the late afternoon and early evening.

Three preliminary ideas on development and infrastructure improvements for the area were created in the morning and presented to property owners and other stakeholders at the charrette, which took place in the late afternoon and early evening.

The charrette, which is described as an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development, providing a forum for ideas and offering the advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers, culminated a day-long process.

It began in the morning when city planning staff and members of the Minneapolis-based Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc., hired by the city to prepare a transit-oriented development study for the area, prepared three preliminary concepts for development of the area.

The process culminated in the late afternoon-early evening charrette-style meeting when those ideas were presented to affected property owners as well as members of the Coon Rapids City Council and members of its planning and parks and recreation commissions in two informal presentations.

Using a $40,000 Metropolitan Council Livable Communities Act transit-oriented grant, the council in November 2013 retained Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc. as lead consultant for the study with SEH as the engineering subconsultant.

While focusing on the area surrounding the Foley Park and Ride facility as well as the potential future rail station stop nearby, the study encompasses 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 Matt Brown, Coon Rapids community development specialist and lead city staff member for the study.

The planning initiative is designed to guide future development and infrastructure improvements to support and accommodate potential future transportation projects, for example an overpass at the Foley Boulevard railroad crossing and a station for the Northstar Commuter Rail line and/or the proposed Northern Lights Express high-speed rail passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth-Superior, Brown said.

Prior to the Jan. 8 meeting, the consultant team met individually with property owners in the area as well as agency officials, including Metro Transit, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Anoka County and Northern Lights Express.

“This long-range planning effort is intended to identify potential future land use configurations, as well as roadways, connectivity and pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure improvements,” Brown said.

But the development options and infrastructure improvements are considered to be long term, not short term, according to Rita Trapp, community planner, Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc.

“These are very preliminary concepts to get discussion started,” Trapp said.

All three scenarios include Anoka County’s proposal for a grade separation at the Foley Boulevard railroad crossing and reconstruction of Foley, which would include a median and access restrictions, which has caused concern among business owners on the road, she said.

Also part of the concepts is a loop road from Foley to Coon Rapids Boulevard through the now closed Berry’s Plastics site, Trapp said.

While a proposed future rail station is included in the scenarios, they will work with or without a station, according to Trapp.

“They are not dependant on a Foley rail station,” Trapp said.

Jeff McMenimen, director of design, Hoisington Koegler Group, outlined the three preliminary concepts.

• Scenario A would continue the existing pattern of low density employment, with no change to the office/industrial uses in Evergreen Business Park, but with enhancement of connectivity in the Foley area to create between 2,400 to 3,400 new jobs.

• Scenario B proposes a corporate campus in the study area with high density employment, offices and restaurants, a full interchange at Coon Rapids Boulevard and TH 610 and enhancements of all modes of transportation with new jobs in the 5,400 to 10,500 range.

• Scenario C was a mixed use proposal with residential development comprising townhomes and multi-family housing, plus offices and retail such as coffee shops and restaurants, bike-pedestrian mobility on Foley and trail connections, envisioning 3,300 to 6,200 new jobs and 400 to 760 new homes.

Pros and con of each scenario were also listed, which included employment, return on public infrastructure improvements and level of support for transit.

According to McMenimen, the final proposal will likely to be a blending of one or more of the preliminary ideas.

This will be presented to a roundtable to which potential developers, both commercial and residential, will be invited sometime in February.

Developers will be more receptive if there is a plan and clear vision presented to them, McMenimen said.

With a vision for what the city wants to see in the area, “the developer would be in a position to get a plan approved without spending a bundle of money,” he said.

Donna Naeve, longtime Coon Rapids Planning Commission member, told the Hoisington Koegler Group planners, that they needed to make sure the developers at the roundtable were aware of other projects in the city, notably Riverdale and Port Riverwalk.

That would be part of the package of information given to developers before the roundtable, McMenimen said.

There will also be another open house for property owners and stakeholders on the refined concept following the roundtable, according to McMenimen.

Another meeting will take place with stakeholder before the final plan is unveiled in May or June, Brown said.

A full access interchange at TH 610 and Coon Rapids Boulevard, where there is now limited access, is a must for any long-term development in the Foley area, according to Jerry Teeson, a representative of Shamrock Development, which owns property in the area.

“That’s a game changer,” Teeson said.

Marc Nevinski, Coon Rapids community development director, told the meeting that the city study that proposes a full-access, button-hook interchange had been presented to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and while MnDOT had issues with the proposal, including the close proximity with the Coon Rapids Boulevard/Highway 47 full access interchange, it “had not slammed the door.”

“They are willing to talk about it,” he said.

The closeness of the interchanges is no different than proximity of interchanges found on I-694, Teeson said.

The city hopes to get both MnDOT and Anoka County to the table to look at the connectivity all the way east to University Avenue and Northtown, Nevinski said.

In addition, the Foley Park and Ride facility “is pretty full right now,” but Metro Transit does not have any plans to expand capacity, according to Brown.

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

Neal Livermore, Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission member, spoke of the importance of pedestrian/bike trails as part of any projects in the area, especially to connect with other trails in the city.

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.

“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,” Brown said.

Information on the study’s progress can be found online at www.foleyblvdstation.com.

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

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