Site plan approved for first phase of Coon Rapids’ Riverdale Station project

Contributing Writer

The site plan for two apartment buildings in the first phase of the Riverdale Station project was approved unanimously by the Coon Rapids Planning Commission June 15.

Action on the development proposal on 15 acres of vacant property adjacent to the Riverdale commuter rail station off Northdale Boulevard had been postponed at the commission’s May 18 meeting to await a traffic study on the impact on Northdale.

No one spoke at the public hearing when it was opened at the May 18 meeting, nor did anyone speak when the hearing was continued June 15.

However, the commission did reject the site plan for the commercial development component, which is proposed at the intersection of Northdale and the commuter rail station drive, because of design issues.

Specifically, the commission found the drive-through design to be confusing with a difficult maneuver, especially for large vehicles; the crosswalk is in a challenging location, placing pedestrians into vehicle turning movements; and there is no way for vehicles to bypass the drive-through once they are in line.

According to Planner Scott Harlicker, rather than appeal the decision to the Coon Rapids City Council, representatives of the developer, Sherman & Associates, agreed to go back and revise the site plan to address the city’s concerns before bringing it back for commission approval.

“There is no date certain for bringing the revised plan back to the commission,” Harlicker said.

The development’s first phase proposes an L-shaped 180-unit apartment building on the east side of the site, a second apartment building totaling 71 units on the west side of the site and a 3,500-square-foot commercial building at the intersection of Northdale and the station drive.

Both apartment buildings will be four stories tall, with the west building 47 feet from the ground at its highest point and the east building 54 feet from the ground to its tallest point, but its 40-foot setback from Northdale will help mitigate the building’s scale relative to pedestrians and adjacent properties on Northdale, according to Harlicker.

Both underground and above ground parking are planned for each building, Harlicker said.

Code requires open space in the amount of 15 percent of the project area, which is 58,156 square feet, but it can be met with the two planned parks near the apartment buildings and the open space around the storm water pond, which will have to be improved with landscaping and a path or trail to be included as open space, he said.

A traffic study had been conducted by the developer earlier in the process, but the Coon Rapids City Council, in approving the concept plan at the beginning this year, directed a second traffic study be done to determine the proposed development’s impact on Northdale traffic.

According to Harlicker, the new study does not change the conclusions of the first study, specifically that the development will produce fewer trips than other land use alternatives, such as office, retail or a combination of uses, in the morning and afternoon peak hours and daily volume.

The study also concluded that morning and afternoon peak hour traffic generation is acceptable at the four intersections along Northdale adjacent to the proposed development under both existing and building scenarios.

But the study did recommend left- and right-turn striping be added on Northdale at the proposed new intersection from the development with Northdale, which is between the signalized Station Drive and 124th Avenue intersections, according to Harlicker.

City engineering staff and the city’s consultant agreed with the traffic study findings, Harlicker said.

Commission approval came with 17 conditions, which included park dedication fees paid to the city in the amount of $1,300 per apartment unit and $5,000 per acre for the commercial site prior to building permits being issued; street trees installed at 35 feet intervals along the west side of the development drive near the pond, both sides of the connector drive and on Northdale; irrigation of all landscaped areas; and the buildings achieve at least a comparable rating as “LEED certified.”

While the site plan does not require council approval unless appealed, the preliminary plat recommended by the commission June 15 will go to the council for action July 18.

At that meeting the council will also have a public hearing on creating a tax increment financing district for the development, which the commission found June 15 to be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Creation of a TIF district is part of a term sheet, the precursor to a development agreement, the city signed with Sherman in April 2016 which outlined the financial package, according to Matt Brown, city economic development coordinator.

For the first phase, Sherman will receive increment on a pay-as-you-go basis for no more than 10 years of the 26-year maximum, Brown said.

The TIF district is expected to generate some $2 million in increment for the project over 10 years, he said.

Staff also hopes to present a development agreement with Sherman to the council for approval at its July 18 meeting, Brown said.

Late last year, the first-phase Riverdale Station development received a $985,000 grant from the Metropolitan Council and more than $16.878 million in federal tax credits from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

The land on which the development is proposed is currently owned by the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority, which comprises the seven members of the Anoka County Board.

In June 2016, the Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority, made up of the seven members of the council, approved purchase agreements to buy the property from the county for $2.3 million and sell half the land where the first-phase buildings are planned to Sherman for $1.5 million.

Under its purchase agreement with the city, Sherman will buy the land for the phase-two senior housing, in which two apartment buildings are proposed, from the HRA for $800,000 within three years of closing on the phase-one land.

The purchase agreements had a closing date of June 30, but recent action by both the city HRA and the county rail authority extended that to Dec. 29.

“At present, Sherman expects closing to take place this fall,” Brown said.