Excelsior & Grand was a home run from the moment it opened in 2003.

The mixed-use development on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park spurred additional projects that are still rolling out, transforming a tired commercial strip into a hot suburban destination.

But some residents are starting to feel like it’s too much of a good thing.

The latest Excelsior Boulevard proposal, dubbed the Bridgewater, puts a six-story building with 170 apartments and ground-floor retail on the corner of Excelsior and Monterey Drive, right across from Trader Joe’s.

The city’s Planning Commission will review the Bridgewater at its meeting Wednesday night. Some nearby residents are hoping that they put on the brakes.

“That area is already really congested right now,” said Dennis Morin, who’s lived for 39 years in the neighborhood behind the planned project. “We already have spillover congestion. People who have lived here for a long time are concerned about it.”

Morin said motorists are using 36½ Street as a cut-through to avoid the congested area around Trader Joe’s, and he fears the new project will only make things worse.

He also said the city hasn’t always communicated accurate information about the project’s status. More than 300 people signed a petition last year supporting a moratorium, but the project hasn’t been slowed.

A traffic study shows the area could handle more vehicles with the addition of dedicated turn lanes. More important, city officials say, the Bridgewater is part of a carefully considered plan to create a city center in the area.

Apartment development on the boulevard is squarely in line with the city’s long-term plans, which call for greater residential density near commercial centers and transit service. Several major bus routes follow Excelsior Boulevard, and the area is not far from where the planned Southwest light-rail line will run.

“Excelsior & Grand has proven itself to be a landmark, not only in St. Louis Park but in the entire metro area,” said Greg Hunt, the city’s economic development coordinator. “The city is sensitive to the fact that change can be difficult. But what’s being proposed is consistent with the whole town center concept.”

Anne Mavity, who represents the area on the City Council, said the council hasn’t made a final decision. Residents still can weigh in at the Planning Commission, and later when the council considers the issue.

But the Bridgewater site “has always been part of the longer-term vision of how this area might grow and develop,” she said. “The community planning for this area has, frankly, been wonderfully successful.”

She said she appreciates people’s willingness to speak up.

“The culture in St. Louis Park is robust and encourages that civic involvement,” Mavity said. “It’s a healthy public conversation to have people expressing their questions, their concern, their enthusiasm about these developments.”

She added: “Often we hear more from the people with concerns than the people who are enthusiastic.”

 

John Reinan 612-673-7402