The Edina City Council has given preliminary approval to a six-story apartment and retail building despite objections from Richfield, where officials and residents say the development on the border of the two cities is too big and busy for the neighborhood.
Richfield had protested that the building planned for the former Wickes Furniture property at 6725 York Av. S. was too tall and too near single-family homes across Xerxes Avenue in Richfield. City officials said the building would sometimes cast some homes in shadow. Heeding those objections, Edina's Planning Commission voted against the project last month.
But this week, most Edina council members said the project would be a much-needed improvement on a blighted site. They noted that developer Lennar Multi-Family Communities had changed its site plan to push the building back from the homes and make the development more open on the Richfield side.
"I think Lennar did a beautiful job," said Mayor Jim Hovland. "We think this will be a great addition … and something that will fit the neighborhood well."
The $65 million project would have 242 apartments, with a restaurant and boutique retail on the first floor. The building's main entrance would be on York, where a parking lot would sit between the building and the street. On the back side, where the city border runs down the middle of Xerxes, ground-floor apartments with porches would face Richfield. Floors would be staggered as the building's height increases, so the highest floors are farthest from the street.
Lennar development manager Peter Chmielewski said the firm had made all the changes it could to the development without jeopardizing the project. A loading dock on Xerxes was eliminated, the building is smaller than originally proposed, and green space and sidewalks were added.
"We've really been pushed and pushed and pushed to the edge of viability for this project, and we're at that point now," Chmielewski told the council.
He said at it's closest point, the apartment would be 150 feet from the front of homes across the street.
Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel and several residents testified that despite the changes, the building was still overbearing and would bring too much traffic to the area. They wanted the height cut to four stories.
The only council member who agreed with them was Joni Bennett, who voted against the resolutions that moved the project forward.
Bennett said she voted "no" because if the Richfield homes were in Edina, Edina's own rules would have required a greater building setback.
"This question of the good neighbor is important," she said. "I would like to think we would get this kind of consideration from Minneapolis … and from our sister city, Richfield."
Lennar will have to come back to the city for final approval and rezoning.