A major new business development in Woodbury will increase traffic significantly and require expanded roads, Washington County planners have determined.
City Place, on the southeast corner of Radio Drive and Interstate 94, will reuse 400,000 square feet in the former State Farm headquarters building and add another 370,600 square feet nearby for new businesses. The City Council could vote on the proposal in August, with construction expected to begin this fall.
“I’ve said it before: This is one of the top issues on the minds of my constituents,” County Commissioner Lisa Weik, who represents Woodbury, said last week about public concern over the long-empty complex. “I think the collaborations and working in advance minimizes surprises.”
The site has been vacant since 2006, when the insurance giant moved its offices to Lincoln, Neb. A Florida real estate investment and development firm, Elion Partners, is under contract to buy the 96.26-acre campus and redevelop it to include a luxury 180-room hotel, a grocer, medical and office space, shops and restaurants.
“This is the city’s No. 1 priority from an economic development standpoint,” Dwight Picha, Woodbury’s community development director, said during a workshop with the County Board.
Much of the county’s role in City Place involves highway reconfiguration to accommodate an estimated increase of 8,635 “daily trips” on roads surrounding the redevelopment. “The existing roadway network is not able to adequately accommodate the increase,” Ann Pung-Terwedo, a senior planner for Washington County, wrote in a letter to the city of Woodbury.
Proposed changes include widening Radio Drive, a county highway, in the southbound lanes near City Place and linking City Place with the nearby Woodbury Lakes shopping district to the east.
Traffic in the area grew substantially in May when a new Cabela’s outdoor store opened across Radio Drive from the State Farm complex. Temporary highway signs attempt to route motorists to lanes they need when entering I-94.
City Place will employ 1,000 to 2,000 people, city officials said, but that early number could change depending on how the cavernous State Farm building is used.
“Unfortunately, it was built as a corporate building for a single user, so it’s going to take significant resources to amend it,” Picha said.
The county, in its environmental assessment of City Place, also encouraged strong attention to water conservation and reuse — which Woodbury already has demonstrated in other projects.
A third consideration involves making City Place “walkable” by connecting it with nearby trails.
“The county supports encouragement of pedestrian and bicycle facilities on and around the proposed development which could include pedestrian bridges, sidewalks, roadway shoulders, and/or bicycle racks or storage areas, among other options,” Pung-Terwedo and fellow county planner Stephanie Souter wrote.
Whether City Place will have a station stop on the upcoming Gateway Corridor transit route along I-94 remains undecided, although it’s in the general vicinity. Bus rapid transit, or BRT, has been named the preferred mode of transportation.
Staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this story.