As Apple Valley gets ready for Cedar Avenue's changeover to a bus rapid transitway, the city continues to lay the groundwork for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly development along the revamped corridor.
"We're still at a very conceptual level," said community development director Bruce Nordquist. But city planners recently got their first glimpse of a consulting firm's plan to guide development along Apple Valley's section of the transitway and within one-half mile of each stop.
The results could include denser housing than what the city is used to, along with mid-grade office buildings and fewer large, sprawling parking lots along the transit line.
The study, funded by a $60,000 grant from the Metropolitan Council, hasn't been completed. So far it consists of a variety of diagrams with possible combinations of high- and medium-density housing as well as retail and office development. Nordquist said the end product will help the city develop new long-term land use and design guidelines.
'A closer look'
Mark Koegler, whose Minneapolis-based Hoisington Koegler Group is preparing the plan, said his firm's work for Apple Valley is unique because the bus rapid transit line is the first in the Twin Cities. Set to open next year, the corridor stretches 16 miles, starting in Lakeville and running north along Cedar to the Mall of America in Bloomington.
Nordquist said the study builds on an earlier report for Apple Valley by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which last year sent a team of architects to get feedback from city officials, residents and businesses on development goals for the area around the transit line.
"They challenged us to take a closer look at what the land uses could be in a transit-served community," Nordquist said. "They also cautioned us not to think that transit would be a magical economic driver."
Both the AIA and Hoisington Koegler studies steer Apple Valley toward much greater density in housing near the transitway -- a marked change for a community where multi-unit dwellings account for only about 15 percent of the city's homes.
"We were surprised at the extent of the potential to add more density in housing," Nordquist said.
Koegler said future housing could include townhouses as well as taller buildings with condominiums that would be owner-occupied or apartments.
"We haven't specifically addressed building heights yet," Koegler said. Most likely they would be consistent with existing building heights in the area that max out at about six stories, he added.
Future office development probably wouldn't be geared to large corporations willing to pay premium rents for top-tier headquarters space, Koegler said. Class B office space aimed at the middle market would be more appropriate for the area, especially because Eagan and Bloomington can draw corporate headquarters with their supplies of Class A space. Earlier this year, the tech-support company Stream Global Services considered relocating its headquarters from suburban Boston to Apple Valley but later said it could not find adequate space and instead opted for Eagan.
Apple Valley's commercial district near the transit line already has large supermarkets and other merchants. Nord-quist said area brokers have been eyeing the area for restaurant and fast-food tenants.
One current retail project offers an example of the kind of development and land use that's likely to result from the guide plan, Nordquist said. Two buildings -- one a Chick-fil-A and the other a Smashburger -- will be constructed at 153rd Street and Cedar on a portion of what is now Cub Foods' vast parking lot. The development addresses a key finding of the AIA study that Apple Valley could improve its streetscape in the area by reducing its seas of parking lots.
Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282