Senior housing proposal raises questions in Eagan

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2013 - 4:31 PM

Eagan officials wonder if the project would fit well in an industrial area.

A senior rental project proposed for Eagan is getting a lukewarm reaction from city officials, who like the idea of more housing for seniors but aren’t keen on the location.

Developer Gregory Preusse wants to build a 34-unit apartment building for renters age 55 and older at 4135 Old Sibley Hwy. In documents filed with the city, he described the development as “luxury” but provided few details other than saying there would be a walking trail and underground parking. At a Dec. 17 City Council meeting he also said there would be two free-standing garages that tenants could use for storing “classic cars and fancy boats.”

Preusse did not respond to interview requests. He told the council the development would be unique for Eagan because it would be “totally gated.” One of its main attractions would be its commanding views of the Minnesota River Valley and Minneapolis skyline.

“I think this would be a great development for the city of Eagan,” Preusse said.

The three-acre site used to be a truck-transfer site years ago but has been vacant for several years. It currently is designated for light industrial or business park use, and sits between a Northern Natural Gas pumping station and a small office business building that Preusse owns. The back of a townhouse development built in the 1990s is across the street, which has only one access point off Diffley Road.

The council voted 3-2 to request a land-use change from the Metropolitan Council to allow medium-density housing on the site. But Mayor Mike Maguire — one of the “no” votes — told Preusse that a change in land use did not guarantee the city would approve the project should he proceed and submit more detailed plans.

“I just worry about isolating a property like that,” Maguire said. He and other council members expressed concerns over the lack of access to public transit or stores within walking distance, the kind of connections generally considered desirable for multiunit housing, especially for independent seniors.

Those issues were among the reasons the city denied a similar request in 2005 for a land-use change on the site and the adjacent parcel now occupied by the office building. That request came from Delta Development Inc., which would have acquired both parcels from Preusse for a townhouse development. At the time, the council agreed with an Advisory Planning Commission report that said Delta’s townhouse project “would create an isolated island of homes in an industrial area.”

“What has changed since 2005?” said Council Member Paul Bakken, the other “no” vote.

But Council Member Cyndee Fields, who lives in the area, said the site’s isolation could be an attraction for some renters.

“Some people don’t want to be connected,” she said.

Preusse told the council that reserving the site for industrial development would increase truck traffic along the stretch of Old Sibley Highway and that “it’s not the road for more semis.” The existing townhouses across the street already must deal with considerable truck traffic, he said.

But some council members wondered if the current amount of truck traffic could be another reason the site isn’t suitable for residential use.

Bakken also expressed concerns that changing the land use could open the door to proposals for other types of multiunit housing on the site if Preusse doesn’t proceed with his current plan.

“We could end up looking at something completely different,” Bakken said. “For me, it doesn’t feel like a good fit for medium-density use.”

Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282

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