Fern Hill carjackings, Beltline Station development, TIF policy updates, and more
Beltline Station proposed development taking shape: Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates has moved further along in their planning process for a major mixed-use development on 6.6 acres at the southeast corner of County Rd. 25 and Beltline Boulevard, near the future Beltline Boulevard Light Rail Station. The proposed development includes a 7-story mixed-use building, two apartment buildings (4 and 5 stories) and a 600-stall parking ramp with 1,800 square feet of ground floor retail/commercial space in the ramp. The mixed-use building will include an additional 20,000 square feet of commercial space, potentially anchored by a co-op grocery store. This project originally came before the community in 2018 at a well-attended meeting where residents voiced their strong desire for a unique design that contributes to the community’s aesthetic. I’m pleased to see the developer's response articulated in their Beltline Visioning document and look forward to learning more in the coming months.
Nordic Ware expansion nearly complete: Folks are noticing the massiveness of the Nordic Ware expansion across the street from the future Beltline Station – indeed, it’s big. A total of 660,853 square feet of new construction to be exact. Work will be completed this fall and include the new Bundt Café for trail users and others. Planned landscaping will soften the look with many new canopy and evergreen trees and other plantings.
I sometimes hear from residents opposed to the amount of redevelopment we’re seeing in SLP these days – particularly all the new rental units - and I understand the concern. Ideally, I’d like for us to be creating more homeownership opportunities, whether that’s co-ops, condos, townhomes, row homes, or affordable single-family homes, all of which provide wealth-building opportunities for residents of our community. At the same time, high-density housing around mass transit is environmentally sound, and necessary for people who can’t or choose not to own a vehicle. The Beltline Station development, Wooddale Station development, and future Louisiana Avenue Station development will also provide new places to shop, eat and gather which community members say they want. Going forward, I will continue to support redevelopment projects but hope staff and council can identify strategies that will lead to more ownership opportunities within those projects.
Fern Hill carjackings: Over the Thanksgiving weekend, two Fern Hill residents were victims of carjackings, in two separate incidents, alarming residents not just of Fern Hill but the entire community. Unfortunately, carjacking incidents are on the rise across the metro. Our police department, which is fully staffed with 58 sworn officers, has shared information on how to stay safe and reduce the likelihood of being the victim of a carjacking. The PD also posts a crime map which is updated weekly.
Fern Hill sidewalks: In response to requests from residents, city staff are studying the potential for additional sidewalk segments in next year’s Pavement Management Project in Fern Hill, including along Salem Ave. (26th to 29th Street) and Raleigh (27th Street to Minnetonka Blvd.) The proposed segments would complete connections to existing sidewalks, transit, parks, and institutions in a busy pedestrian area where many families with small children live, and I’m in support. Here’s an updated map of the proposed project. The final community open house is scheduled for Wednesday, January 12, 5:30-7 pm at City Hall.
Reviving the Fern Hill neighborhood association: City leaders made a thoughtful and conscious commitment to helping SLP neighborhoods get organized and active back in 1992 and it’s made a big positive difference for generations of residents. My own children, now grown, spent many happy times at neighborhood-sponsored events, meeting new friends and experiencing a feeling of safety while adults also benefited from deeper connections formed through volunteering. Fern Hill is Ward 1’s biggest neighborhood and I’m excited to share that a group of Fern Hill residents is planning to revive their neighborhood association after years of inactivity. More to come in my next newsletter but for now, if you’re interested in knowing more or participating in the planning process, please contact email@example.com.
Mexico City Café liquor license: Thanks to a code change that aligns with our vision for the Historic Walker Lake area, locally owned Mexico City Café will soon be able to get a liquor license. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to sitting outside with a glass of wine and a great enchilada meal on a future summer night!
New commercial solar in Ward 1: Minnetonka Park Mall (home of Nelson’s Meats, SLP Liquor, and others) is sporting a new rooftop solar panel array funded in part by city’s Solar Sundown program, bringing us closer to our Climate Action Plan goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Related, check out the recent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report recently presented to council.
PLACE/Via Sol public hearing tomorrow: Financing challenges continue to stall completion of Via Sol development overlooking Hwy 7. City staff and consultants have been working with the developer both to protect the city’s interests and create conditions that will allow the development to be completed. Council will be asked tomorrow night to take three actions related to that goal, and a public hearing on one of the actions will also take place. Residents can attend the meeting and comment in person or watch it watch via webstream and on local cable and call in to comment. For those who want to dig deeper (and I know you're out there) here’s a link to tomorrow’s agenda which includes detailed staff reports on tomorrow's actions as well as call-in numbers for the public hearing.
TIF Policy Updates: Also at tomorrow’s meeting, council is expected to approve updates to our Tax Increment Financing (TIF) policy that tighten up criteria for providing funding and broaden expectations for developers including ensuring all contractors and subcontractors adhere to fair labor laws. While I continue to be concerned about the high percentage of our tax base tied up in TIF, I’m pleased with these updates. I also hope to see updates to our inclusionary housing and green building policies, which developers receiving TIF must adhere to, in the coming year.
Truth in Taxation hearing: I’ve written about local property taxes quite a bit this year, so won’t use much more space in this month’s update other than to share that our annual Truth in Taxation hearing is tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 6. Later this month, Council is expected to approve a 5.58% general fund levy increase as well as a new Economic Development Administration (EDA) levy at $500,000 and renewal of our Housing Revitalization Authority (HRA) levy. When you look at your bill, remember that city taxes are about 1/3 of the total property tax bill, with the remainder funding Hennepin County and the school district. The percent change for individual homeowners and renters may be higher or lower than 5.8% depending on a variety of factors, including changes in assessed market value of your home or apartment building. Find 2022 City Budget info here and general property tax info here.
Support local business with a BOGO coupon book put out by the SLP Sunrise Rotary! The $20 book includes deals from 16 local businesses including Parkway Pizza, México City Café, The Block, Park Tavern, CopperWing Distillery and more. Info here.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in the community:
Truth in Taxation hearing & 2022 Budget presentation: Monday, Dec. 6, St. Louis Park City Hall. Meeting starts at 6:30 pm.
Birchwood Neighborhood Association planning meeting: Tuesday, Dec. 14, 6:30 pm, Birchwood Park Warming House. All Birchwood residents welcome!
Holiday Train at Home, Saturday, Dec. 18, 7 pm, online. Canadian Music Hall-of-Famer Steven Page and The Strumbellas will lead a cast of performers aboard the CP Holiday Train. Remember to make a donation to STEP in honor of the event! Info here.
Be The Light Winter Solstice Walk, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 6:30-8 pm, Westwood Hills Nature Center. Designed to promote awareness and support around issues related to mental health, activities include a self-guided luminary trail and making your own luminary. Free, but preregistration required. Register here.
Fern Hill Pavement Management Final Design Open House: Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, 5:30-7pm, St. Louis Park City Hall.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch!
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.