Grandview senior apartments earn preliminary rezoning

A senior housing project in Grandview that would replace the school bus garage cleared another hurdle as the Edina City Council approved several measures at its July meeting, including a comprehensive plan amendment and preliminary rezoning. 
The school district’s bus garage operations will move into the city’s industrial park west of Highway 100 and north of Interstate 494. The proposal is to tear down the existing structures on the site and construct a six-story, 165-unit senior housing development with 214 underground parking stalls.
Part of the excitement surrounding the project is not only to revitalize a crucial piece of Grandview, but also the amenities for future residents of the facility, which are restricted to those 55 and older.
Amenities would include a bistro bar, Wi-Fi coffee lounge, activity center, pet spa, fitness center, yoga studio, club room and resort-style pool deck with an outdoor kitchen.
Ten percent of the units will be affordable housing, compliant with the city’s affordable housing policy.
Mayor Jim Hovland noted that the comprehensive plan allows for six stories on that site. The zoning code at the time was what held it at a four-story limit. Revisions from an earlier sketch plan include reducing the units from 185 to 165, enhancing the architecture and reducing some of the bulk and enhancing the pedestrian experience through connections, sidewalks and seating areas.
The site is currently guided for 75 units per acre for density, but the project asks for 100 units per acre.
Both city staff members and the planning commission approved of the project, saying that higher density would seem reasonable in the Grandview area given the proximity to arterial roadways such as Eden and Vernon avenues, as well as Highway 100.
Development Director Cary Teague said that the density proposed is similar to mixed-use areas with surrounding
communities including Minnetonka, Minneapolis, Bloomington, Richfield and St. Louis Park, adding that senior housing generates less traffic than market-rate housing.
He explained that the justification for the planned-unit development distinction included a consistency with the comprehensive plan, that the project meets PUD criteria (including providing affordable housing, creating a pedestrian-friendly development, seeking sustainable designs and enhancing landscape), as well as having roadways that support the project.
One big topic that arose was the need for a crosswalk across Eden, especially considering the Edina Senior Center and library are both across the street and are assumed to be heavily utilized by future residents.
“It does warrant for a flashing beacon,” Teague said. “Those details would be worked out, and the condition is included in the resolution.”
During the public comments portion of the meeting, most spoke about the safety concerns of crossing the street.
“There is going to be a lot more traffic than there is now,” resident Jan Del Calzo said. We would really like you to take another look at this, a way to make this better – an elevated crossing or something. This is the chance to get it right.”
Resident Dave Zens agreed, saying that the “dangerous” situation has been in existence for residents of Grandview Square long before the proposed apartment complex.
“It is a very serious security issue,” Zens said. “I don’t know if a
crosswalk with some blinkers will do it.”
“This rezoning has a potential to improve and energize options for seniors in our community,” resident Mary Jane Houlihan said. “Edina needs more residential options for the increasing number of seniors … who move from their single-family homes.”
Houlihan added that the location of being close to services such as shopping, the senior center and the library is crucial.
“An age 55-plus restricted community will never put a burden on our wonderful Edina schools, but it will bring support to our highly rated schools from tax dollars,” Houlihan said. “Not all of us need a care facility yet. We are looking forward to enjoying life’s changes … in up-to-date modern settings that allow for socializing and pursuit of our social interests.”
Councilmember Kevin Staunton described the site as a pivotal transition in Grandview.
“It is a critical piece of property,” Staunton said. “It really provides that … pedestrian-friendly passage way from south to the north and with the population that would be in the building from the north to the south.”
Staunton described how Edina has various nodes in the community, including Grandview, 44th and France and Wooddale and Valley View, that will be experiencing density growth and how important it is to work with the neighbors in those areas.
“I think that the direction we are heading as a community is the growth we are going to have, and the density is going to happen in those pockets,” Staunton said. “We need to, as we do that, reassure people who live around those that there are defined boundaries to those pockets, transitions and benefits to those densities.”
“This project is going to fit perfectly in the neighborhood,” Mayor Jim Hovland said. “I support this as well. I felt like tonight was a wonderful level of discourse of everyone in this room, and I think that makes it a better project.”
The council voted unanimously in favor of the comprehensive plan amendment, the preliminary rezoning (including conditions with sidewalk easements) and the first reading of an ordinance establishing a planned-unit development district.