Apartment project clears hurdle

Burnsville’s first new apartment project in many years cleared a hurdle April 10 with endorsement by the city’s Planning Commission.

The commission voted 2-1 to recommend that the City Council approve a four-story, upscale rental project on 2.5 acres at the northeast corner of Nicollet Avenue South and Travelers Trail in the Heart of the City. A council vote is expected April 18.

Proposed by Burnsville-based Chase Real Estate Inc., the project would have up to 172 apartment units and 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The property is part of the unfinished Nicollet Plaza development that includes Cub Foods and adjacent retailers, two four-story buildings of condos and retail, an office and bank, and 30 townhomes.

Chase promises an “upscale” rental project with “high-end finishes” and “expansive amenities” that will appeal to young professionals as well as empty-nesters looking to ditch their single-family homes.

For years Burnsville officials kept would-be apartment projects from even reaching the review stage because a majority of City Council members opposed building more apartments.

That changed in January with a newly seated council and softening among long-term members toward the booming rental market — particularly the kind of high-amenity product Chase is proposing.

“I think this is a good thing for Burnsville. I’m excited,” said Planning Commissioner Vince Workman, who was joined by commission Chair Jim Bradrick in voting to recommend approval. Commissioner Steve Behnke cast the dissenting vote.

The owner of the Nicollet Plaza shopping mall opposed the project, saying it has too many units and will stress the 956 parking spaces available to all users in the Nicollet Plaza planned unit development.

During a public hearing, Jeff Carriveau told commissioners that only 131 owner-occupied units were approved for the site with the original 2004 PUD. Carriveau said he’s resisting signing off on private agreements between the parties.

“We are trying to be good neighbors, but I don’t think it’s fair for an applicant to try to underpark his project and put his cars on my lot, because that will bring issues later,” Carriveau said. “Again, that will be a private matter.”

Jerry Doffing, a realtor who owns a retail unit in the condo building east of the proposed apartments, also said he fears more parking headaches, which could further devalue retail units that have lost value since they opened.

“We’re having a hard time having clients getting to our units the way it is,” Doffing said. “If we increase parking significantly and people from the retail on the new proposed building are going to park in our area, we’re going to then force clients to cross First Avenue, which is extremely busy currently. … We can’t afford any more parking in our areas.”

Bradrick countered that the proposal is “really close” to the original 2004 plan, and surrounding users may have grown used to having a vacant lot there.

“The property has sat empty for a long time,” Bradrick said. “I’d like to see some development there.”

Behnke called the private disagreements “very disconcerting” and raised other concerns, including changes in renderings that he said make it unclear exactly what style of building Chase is proposing.

Chase is seeking approval to build 172 units and no fewer than 159. The proposal includes 160 underground parking spaces, 63 on-site surface parking stalls and 14 stalls within the right of way. Angled parking is proposed in front of the new retail space along First Avenue.

“Cross access and parking is provided on site through easements, and these private agreements may need to be amended to reflect the current proposal,” said a city staff report.

Chase is seeking up to 172 units if it can show one underground parking space per unit.

Project plans include an outdoor plaza with amenities including a swimming pool. Indoor amenities include lounges on multiple floors and a fitness and yoga studio.

Other Chase developments include The Flats of Cedar Grove in Eagan, which opened in 2014. Rents range from $1,200 to $2,400, according to Chase.