Planning commission approves zoning amendments for Cedar Avenue corridor


A map shows the changes being made to zoning districts in the Cedar Avenue Corridor. (Image courtesy city of Richfield)
A map shows the changes being made to zoning districts in the Cedar Avenue Corridor. (Image courtesy city of Richfield)

The long-term vision for Richfield’s east side continues to slowly crystallize.

The Richfield Planning Commission made the latest step in redeveloping the area when it unanimously approved zoning amendments for the Cedar Avenue Corridor to mirror the city’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the area.

The Cedar Avenue Corridor Master Plan calls for a combination of mixed-use and multi-family housing on the eastern edge of Richfield, with single-family home zoning remaining to the west.

The work highlights the ongoing transformation of the city.

“I’m excited to see a renewed focus on this side of Richfield, on the east side of Richfield, having an opportunity to at least lay the groundwork for potential development,” Planning Commissioner Gordon Vizecky said.

According to a staff report to the planning commission, the vision for the corridor emphasizes the following considerations:

• A renewed brand at a signature gateway for the city

• Establishing Richfield Parkway as an important north-south connector, following the path of what is now 18th Avenue

• Introduce new commercial uses that directly serve the local community while providing employment opportunities

• Increase the diversity of housing options

• Encourage the rehabilitation of the lowest-quality housing stock in the area

The zoning modifications are largely separated by the planned Richfield Parkway, with commercial and mixed uses to the east and multi-family housing to the west, providing a transition into the neighborhoods of single-family homes.

Changes for the multi-family housing zone include the allowance of twin homes and bed and breakfast inns, with no new single-family home development allowed.

In the multi-use zone, updates include the allowance of taprooms and restaurants serving alcohol. Such establishments are currently only permitted along roads designated as arterial or collector streets. Theaters and live entertainment venues will be allowed, along with assembly and manufacturing on a conditional basis.

Outdoor storage will be prohibited, as will “regional retail,” which was one point of concern for residents of the area.

“The neighborhood expressed a clear dislike for regional retail development,” the staff report states, “and preferred encouragement of commercial development that would serve the area residents.”

While the planning is occurring now, redevelopment of sections of the corridor could still be 30-40 years away, City Planner Melissa Poehlman noted.

Aside from apartment projects in the works on the north end of the corridor, “there is no specific proposal. The city is not proposing to come to buy any homes in this area,” Poehlman said. “This is setting us up for the future when private development comes to the area.”

Redevelopment of this nature tends to happen incrementally, moving from one block to another, she explained.

As the planning commission laid the guidelines for that redevelopment, one familiar issue inspired debate.

“If our past parking questions that have come in front of the commission have taught us anything, it’s that people get especially excited about parking,” Vizecky said.

For the future apartment buildings in the mixed-use zone, Planning Commissioner Sean Oleary pushed to lower the minimum number of spaces from 1.5 spaces per unit to one.

The 1.5 standard “seems unrealistically high for a minimum,” Oleary said.

Although the planning commission ultimately approved the staff recommendation of 1.5 spaces per-unit, Oleary noted the one-space requirement would match the conditions in Minneapolis. Further, Oleary pointed to the new Onyx Apartments in Edina, where 1.2 spaces per unit is the requirement.

“I’m OK with lowering the minimum knowing that that’s the minimum and they could have more in there,” Planning Commission Chair Erin Vrieze Daniels said.

But Vizecky responded to Oleary’s argument by speculating that backlash in Richfield could be more visible “when we push parking onto the adjacent residential streets” than it would be in Minneapolis.

The city would be better served by addressing the parking issue individually as developments are proposed, Poehlman said.

“We would rather address this on a development by development basis and set our minimum at 1.5, which has historically been fairly comfortable for us,” she said. As developments come forward, “there will be some negotiation,” she explained.

Not that one space per unit isn’t the appropriate number for the Cedar Avenue Corridor, Poehlman added. “It very well could be,” she said.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.