Open house on proposed Port Riverwalk development

Contributing Writer

An open house for the proposed townhouse development on the city-owned Port Riverwalk property will be hosted by the city of Coon Rapids from 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, May 17 in Civic Room A at the Coon Rapids City Center.

A preliminary development agreement was approved Feb. 22 by the Coon Rapids Housing the Redevelopment Authority, which comprises the seven members of the Coon Rapids City Council, for the townhome project proposed by Coon Rapids-based Centra Homes on the bulk of the 35-acre Port Riverwalk site located south of Coon Rapids Boulevard between Egret Boulevard and Avocet Street.

Centra Homes presented a concept plan for some 110 owner-occupied, detached townhouses at Coon Rapids City Council work session Feb. 14. There was consensus to continue discussions with Centra Homes and enter into a preliminary development agreement.

Since then the city has been working with Centra on a “lot of investigative work” such as soil borings and wetland delineation, as well talking with the Anoka County Highway Department (Coon Rapids Boulevard is a county state aid highway) about trails and removing the existing frontage road, which is on county right of way, plus the concept of a possible pedestrian bridge in the future over Coon Rapids Boulevard at Avocet Street to link trails, according to Matt Brown, city economic development coordinator.

The concept plan presented at the work session by Centra Founder and President Dale Wills and Chief Financial Officer David Pattberg shows that half of the proposed 110 units will be one-level and the other half two-level with sales of about 25 units a year leading to a build-out over a few years.

“Centra is very excited by the Coon Rapids project because this is where our home is,” Wills told the council at the work session.

Representatives from Centra Homes will be at the open house to answer questions about the project, while city staff will be on hand to talk about preliminary ideas for infrastructure improvements in the Port Riverwalk area that could include landscaping, street lighting, sidewalks, trails and improvements to Coon Rapids Boulevard, according to Brown.

Mailings have been sent to 3,000 addresses in the residential neighborhoods surrounding Port Riverwalk, Brown said.

“We want to get initial reaction to the concept plan and identify any issues residents may have early on,” he said.

That’s because the target date for a more formal development proposal from Centra is “late summer,” Brown said.

Under the preliminary development agreement, the HRA is not obligated to sell the property to Centra, but it does give Centra exclusive rights to work with the city until Aug. 31, he said.

The city is also negotiating purchase and redevelopment agreements with Centra, which would set out the terms of the project and city financial assistance, Brown said.

“Staff believes the project is feasible,” he said.

The agreement covers all but about five acres of the site. The remaining acres located in the middle of the site will be kept by the city for future high-density residential and limited commercial development.

City assistance will likely include gap financing in the $1.5 million to $2.5 million range using cash balances from current tax increment financing districts earmarked specifically for streets and other public improvements, according to Brown.

In addition, the Port Riverwalk site is located in a redevelopment TIF district, which was put in place in 2006 after the old buildings were demolished and runs until 2033.

Special legislation to extend the district to 2040 was part of the 2016 tax bill that was passed by the Minnesota Legislature, but vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton because of a wording error, Brown said.

The legislation is included in the omnibus tax bill now under consideration by the 2017 Legislature, he said. “We are hopeful it will become law,” Brown said.

“Staff estimates that the detached townhomes as currently proposed would generate at least $1.5 million in TIF provided the extension is granted,” he said.

The HRA purchased the Port Riverwalk property in the early-2000s for $16 million, demolished a dozen buildings and cleaned up contamination from a dry cleaning business as well as an illegal dump.

A housing redevelopment proposal by Rottlund Homes and Shamrock Development comprising 250 for-sale townhomes and a 60-unit senior housing building was approved by the council in 2007, but was never built because the housing market tanked with the onset of the recession.