The popularity of the I-394 strip west of Hwy. 100 is leading developers to build apartments.
The “power strip” along Interstate 394 between Hwy. 100 and I-494 in Golden Valley is not only proving to be a top draw for office users, it’s also becoming one of the hottest spots in the Twin Cities for apartment development.
Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq’s semiannual Compass report last month characterized the I-394 corridor as booming, with the lowest vacancy rate for Class A office space in the Twin Cities at 7.8 percent, thanks in part to the presence of the popular Shops at West End retail center.
But that popularity also is extending to multifamily housing. Three new apartment complexes within walking distance of the lifestyle center are in either the construction or approval stage, including two across the freeway in Golden Valley.
Most recently, final plans for the Arcata, a proposed 173-unit, market-rate apartment building from Chicago-based Trammell Crow Co., got the blessing of the Golden Valley Planning Commission. During a meeting Monday, the panel took a detailed look at the designs from ESG Architects for the site — a long-vacant lot adjoining the Colonnade office tower along Xenia Avenue.
Originally planned for a hotel when the luxury office tower was built in 1988, the 2-acre site has remained as a grassy field ever since, but now — thanks to a burgeoning market for new, higher-end apartments — it’s finally going to sprout a development.
The plans go next to the City Council for final passage, after which ground will be broken in late spring or early summer, Trammell Crow principal Grady Hamilton told the commission.
He said the success of the I-394 corridor office market played a big role in the decision to build housing there.
“There’s 2.9 million square feet of office space within a mile of this location, and some even nearer,” he said. “These are incredible businesses that have workforces that may be here only Monday through Friday on a consulting basis, and they may just need a place to call home for the week.
“We very likely expect to see some of those workers as tenants.”
Meanwhile, preliminary design approval was granted in December to the Three Nine Four Apartments from Minneapolis-based Global One Commercial, which includes 308 units of market-rate apartments along with a 118-unit senior living building.
Those plans call for the construction of the buildings over a two-year period on a parcel fronting the freeway that is currently owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and has long been considered difficult to develop, Golden Valley Director of Planning and Development Mark Grimes said.
“It’s excess MnDOT property that they acquired years ago as part of the I-394 construction process,” he said. “It’s next to the Good Day Cafe and the Metropolitan Ballroom, which will stay.”
In that project, Minneapolis developer Mark Globus is seeking to combine the MnDOT parcel with another one which now holds a pair of 1960s-era apartment buildings. They would be razed under the plans.
The Three Nine Four, he said, is meant to appeal to younger professional couples “where one person works in downtown Minneapolis and one person works in the suburbs” as well as to empty-nesters.
In all, about 500 units of new apartments are coming online in Golden Valley this year, Grimes said.
Across I-394 in St. Louis Park, the Excelsior Group is building the Flats at West End apartment complex next to the retail area, with occupancy expected in spring.
The West End area is unique because it offers true “walkability” in a suburban locale, making it attractive to younger renters as an alternative to Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood, said Gina Dingman, president of apartment market analysts NAI Everest.
“Uptown is very popular with younger male renters, who want to live right next to night life, but I think you’ll see more single women, as well as empty-nesters, who’ll like the restaurants and shopping that are all right there in that area,” she said.
Don Jacobson is a freelance writer in St. Paul.