After band concerts at St. Louis Park High School, Mark Globus recalls going to Bridgeman's Ice Cream for a treat on the site that he now wants to turn into luxury apartment rentals and a senior care center.

He's got a plan and the enthusiastic approval of Golden Valley City Hall to build in the epicenter of a housing boomlet north of Interstate 394 and west of Hwy. 100. He calls the area a "tweener," not quite the city, but not quite the suburbs.

His proposal, however, is stuck, mired in a court fight with the owner of the neighboring Good Day Cafe, which argues that the city through the development authority is unfairly selling the 7-acre site to Globus. "Publicly owned land is supposed to be sold in a way that gives the public a chance to buy it," said Dan Rosen, lawyer for the cafe. Instead, Golden Valley's Housing and Redevelopment Authority is merely a pass-through to a private buyer, Rosen said, adding that "their brazenness is remarkable."

Both the city and the developer are eager to get going, but in a Hennepin County District Court lawsuit filed earlier this year, cafe owner David Webb claims the city wants to illegally convey the land to Global One Golden Valley LLC. In response, the state, which still holds the land, argues that Webb has no standing to challenge the land sale.

The desirability of the little neighborhood has grown with the rise of the West End shopping and entertainment center across the I-394 bridge in St. Louis Park. A grocery store, restaurants and a theater are all within walking distance. The site is a four-minute commute into downtown Minneapolis and a quick walking or biking connection to the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway.

Mayor Shep Harris said the site is ideal for those who want easy access to the urban core but don't want to live there.

Thousands of commuters use the I-394 corridor past Golden Valley every day. And now some want to stop there. According to projections, Golden Valley is in transformation from old-time inner-ring suburb to hip urban gateway just miles from the action at Target Field and Target Center.

Preparing for growth

Harris said the Metropolitan Council estimates Golden Valley will grow by 9,000 residents by 2040, a nearly 50 percent spike from the current 20,000 dwellers. "If we're going to do that, we need to throw out the welcome mat," the mayor said.

Global One wants to build a six-story, 314-unit luxury apartment building on the eastern end of the site hard against 394. (The apartments would overlook the freeway; there is no frontage road.) On the western end, a six-story building would go up with 120 units of assisted living, including memory care.

Nearby, another developer is expected to open the Arcata apartments in 2014. The complex will have 220 rental units. Then there's the Xenia, which is slated for City Council final approval by the end of the year, said City Manager Tom Burt. The Xenia would bring 372 units to the area.

Mark Globus has been working on the project for years and was set to break ground when the lawsuit was filed in March. "We could have been the first to market and we're not going to be," he said.

The case is on appeal and no dirt will fly — at least until that is resolved.

Land was part of I-394 deal

The land in dispute was purchased by the state in 1988 for potential use in the construction of I-394. But the state didn't use the land for the highway and long ago signaled an intention to return the land to the Golden Valley Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Webb is interested in buying the land, and his attorney said he is willing to pay hundreds of thousands more than Globus. He has sued to stop the sale to Globus and thus far has been successful in preventing it.

The district court, however, dismissed much of Webb's claim and ordered him to post a $3.2 million bond to continue the court fight. Webb didn't post the bond and has appealed both that requirement and the underlying substance of the case.

Rosen notes that his client would be "irreparably" harmed if the sale to Globus were to go through.

The next step is for the sides to file briefs with the state Court of Appeals.

Until then, the project is in limbo, to the consternation of the city and Globus, who wants to turn dirt "as soon as possible; the real estate cycle is very sensitive."

Harris said ultimately the cafe owner wins, too, through more customers. "Good Day Cafe is a very popular attraction, and we're thrilled to have it in Golden Valley," he said.