As work on the rapid bus corridor continues, cities look forward to spinoff housing and retail businesses.
Apple Valley officials are reviewing a final report on transit-oriented development that could occur around the city's rapid bus transit stations on Cedar Avenue. The city was the first in Minnesota to win a grant from the American Institute of Architects, which produced the final report after sending a team of sustainable design transit experts to assess the Cedar Avenue corridor.
The architect team spent a few days in July interviewing Apple Valley leaders, businesses, residents and youth about what they would like to see along the Cedar Avenue corridor. They also drew on bus transit development in cities such as Eugene, Ore., and Los Angeles in making their recommendations to Apple Valley, said Bruce Nordquist, the city's community development director.
The City Council was briefed on the report last week.
The $112 million Cedar Avenue project is the state's first attempt to make buses operate like a light-rail system. The 16-mile line starts in rural Lakeville at a park-and-ride lot at 181st Street. It runs north along Cedar to the Mall of America and a nearby light rail station where service is available to downtown Minneapolis. The three suburbs along the corridor, which is still being widened for shoulders to be used by buses and more stops, hope the busway will stimulate economic development for a half mile or more around the bus stops.
Suburbs along the Cedar Avenue line are "part of an effort trying to capitalize on the growing demand for housing with transportation options," said Sam Zimbabwe, who until recently was director of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development in Washington, D.C. "People are looking for housing choices where they don't have to depend just on cars for all their trips."
Zimbabwe said cities attract housing near transportation hubs by providing convenient bikeways and walkways and pedestrian overpasses as well as traffic-calming devices, such as narrower streets. He said promoting walking around transit station parking ramps, which attract high volumes of cars, can be challenging.
Nordquist said the architects' report made several key points, including:
•"Pay attention to the millennial [20s and 30s age group] market," Nordquist said. He said areas around Cedar Avenue bus stops need more restaurants, shops and multi-unit housing like that in Uptown in south Minneapolis, so nearby residents can walk to stores or "jump on a bus and don't have to drive."
•The architects "challenged us to be more bike- and pedestrian-oriented," Nordquist said. The report stressed the importance of adding skyways across Cedar between north and southbound transit stations. The 155th Street Station, which has a 486-space, two-level parking ramp, has a skyway, and another is planned for the 140th Street Station to be built next year.
•The downtown area around Cedar and County Rd. 42 has more parking space than needed. That could be developed into transit-oriented housing or retail. The city owns about four acres by the parking ramp station where apartments or townhouses and retail development is likely, Nordquist said.
Eagan has cleared most of the 65 acres around its Cedar Grove Transit Station in the southeast corner of Hwy. 77 (Cedar Avenue) and Hwy. 13. A developer, despite the sluggish housing market, is grading land for 10 townhouses to be built this winter in the nearby Nicols Ridge subdivision, said Jon Hohenstein, Eagan's community development director.
Eagan has an agreement with developer Len Pratt and a Realtor who are working with residential, office and retail developers to attract businesses and multi-unit senior or market-rate rental and owner-occupied housing to the area, Hohenstein said.
"We have a lot of oars in the water that hopefully will develop in the near future," Hohenstein said. He expects convenience stores, restaurants and service businesses to sprout around the transit station, which has 142 parking spots.
Sitting recently in the Cedar Grove station, Anarae Schunk, 19, said she rides the rapid bus line to her classes at the University of Minnesota, the Mall of America or to the light rail line into downtown Minneapolis. She takes a local bus or on nice days bikes 2 miles to the station from her parents' Burnsville home. Schunk said ridership has grown noticeably in the year she has taken the bus, which "helps me a lot in being self-reliant ... I want to commute without needing a car."
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283