Edina leaders have rejected a proposal to build what would be the tallest residential towers in the city, a $250 million project that would have transformed a critical corner across from the Southdale and Galleria shopping centers.
The City Council turned down a request by Ryan Companies to loosen caps on building heights and density to permit the proposed high-rise condos, after a marathon public hearing that stretched past 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Council members said they were impressed with the look of the towers, and said they could see it in another part of town. But most were concerned about its impact on homes west of France Avenue.
“While it’s a beautiful project, the intensity is just too high for the location,” Council Member Mary Brindle said.
Mayor James Hovland, who cast the lone vote for the project, said that developers have site control over the area and that he doesn’t expect them to come forward with another project soon.
“My understanding of it is, that’s it,” he said. “I don’t see anything in the immediate future coming back in there.”
However, he added that it’s likely the Southdale area will see more requests for high-rise development.
The council decision marked the end for now of the Estelle Edina project, which promised a pair of owner-occupied residential towers — one 26 stories, the other 22 — on the southwest corner of France Avenue and 69th Street.
The proposal rejected by the council would have raised the maximum height for that corner from four stories and 48 feet to 26 stories and 360 feet, and expanded density from 30 units per acre to 60 units per acre.
Ryan expressed disappointment that the council “voted not to amend the city’s comprehensive plan, which would have allowed for consideration of a $250 million project that included 20 percent affordable housing and world-class design.”
Developers had announced that one-fifth of the project’s 173 units would qualify as affordable housing, costing between $250,000 and $300,000 per unit.
The outcome they wanted
It was a design that wowed both supporters and detractors. Renderings of the art deco-inspired towers, to be built of stone and glass, resembled architecture in Chicago and New York City.
Luigi Bernardi, president of co-developer Arcadia and a lifelong resident of Edina, has been involved in previous high-end projects.
More than 200 people filled overflow seating Tuesday night for the hearing at Edina City Hall. Supporters of the project wore green scarves with the words “KEEP EDINA ON TOP.”
But dozens of residents spoke against the towers, listing issues with everything from its height to the shadows it would cast. Some were concerned that the city would update its comprehensive plan merely to satisfy one development.
Council Member Bob Stewart said he would support the project only if it got “sufficient support ... from the immediately adjacent community. Feels quite the contrary to me.”
Bruce McCarthy, a leader of the Lake Cornelia Neighborhood Association, said about 750 people had signed a petition against the project. “We got the outcome we wanted, but it feels even better to know that our City Council cares about having a bigger plan and not having a one-off approach to city planning,” he said after the vote.
Nevertheless, the city’s Planning Commission recommended the height and density change last month on a 7-2 vote.
Edina is preparing to update its comprehensive plan in 2018 as required by the Metropolitan Council. Work groups are drafting guidelines for development in certain sections of the city, including the Southdale area.