It’s an open farm field now, but a six-acre plot in the city of Carver is about to be transformed into a 400-space park-and-ride with a sleek new bus shelter.
Just a few miles away, another park-and-ride in neighboring Chaska is replacing a surface lot with a double-decker ramp to increase parking stalls from about 250 to 700.
The changes are the latest signs that planners are preparing for growth — or in Carver’s case, more growth, since the city’s population has tripled in the past decade to about 3,800 residents.
The park-and-rides will allow more commuters to climb aboard buses and ride to neighboring communities, or take express trips to downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota or Target Field.
“This is a once-in-a-generation amenity,” said Carver City Administrator Brent Mareck.
Carver received a $3.6 million federal grant that will pay about 80 percent of the costs for buying the land, building the park-and-ride and operating the bus service for three years. It came from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, competitive grants administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The city approved the preliminary plat for the work two weeks ago, and groundbreaking is expected this summer.
Carver Mayor Greg Osterdyk said the $5.8 million project will benefit nearby residents, but he also hopes it will attract commuters from outside the city, particularly from rural areas and communities to its west.
The transit station will have tempered arched windows, stone benches, a wooden overhang and materials that incorporate wood and stone.
“The design combines some of the historic features of a railway station, which is kind of how Carver got its start back in the 1800s,” Osterdyk said. Bus service may begin in late summer of 2014, he said.
Osterdyk credited SouthWest Transit for assistance with the project. SouthWest operates its own park-and-rides in Chaska, Chanhassen and Eden Prairie, and hopes to receive the contract to operate buses from Carver.
SouthWest Transit CEO Len Simich said the area is primed for growth. “Just based on the infrastructure that’s in place, the available land at very good price, and the number of jobs, we know that we’re going to see that growth once again be on top of us,” he said.
Even so, the park-and-ride by itself would not have happened without Carver County’s Community Development Agency, which provided most of the 20 percent match needed to obtain the federal grant. The six acres is also part of a 36-acre parcel owned by the agency.
“We feel we’re being a catalyst to provide affordable housing and create jobs, and it’s our mission to do that,” said John Sullivan, the agency’s economic development director.
As construction gets underway this summer for the park-and-ride’s connecting roads and side roads, he said, another contractor will be installing sewer and water and streets on 17 adjoining acres to the west. The plan is to prepare 47 finished lots and sell them to a builder for single-family homes, he said.
Land just south of the park-and-ride will be used to build at least two large apartment buildings with 100 units each, probably in 2015 or 2016, Sullivan said. The development agency would own and operate the complex, he said, and the project also includes a 1.1-acre commercial area near the park-and-ride for retail stores.
“It’s really just one big project with three components,” Osterdyk said. “I don’t think any of the components themselves would have worked, standing alone, but by combining the benefits of all three, it works for everybody involved.”