Plans to spruce up the blighted site of the former Lyndale Garden Center have cleared a major hurdle.
The Richfield City Council last week approved rezoning and final development plans for the site, now called Lyndale Gardens. It will include a 151-unit apartment building, retail and restaurant space, gardens and space for a midweek farmers market.
Lakewinds Natural Foods, a member-owned co-op that is buying land on the southern end of the site, is expected to bring plans for a 20,000-square-foot store to the city this spring. If the weather cooperates, the store could be open by late fall.
Those plans have excited residents and city officials, who have been driving by the vandalized and glass-strewn site of the old garden center since it closed in 2006. The nearly 10-acre site borders Richfield Lake and is considered by many to be the heart of Richfield’s downtown.
“This has been an eyesore and a problem for years,” said Karen Barton, Richfield’s community development manager. “To have this redeveloped, and in such an exciting way … does a lot to invigorate the downtown area.”
Barton said the city also expects the development to be an economic boon because it should create at least a couple of hundred jobs.
Besides the six-story apartment building and restaurant and retail space, Richfield-based developer the Cornerstone Group wants to create public space that includes links to trails that ring the lake, edible gardens, a splash pad for kids, an outdoor pizza oven and a performance space with built-in seating. A market area would host a midweek farmers market (Richfield’s big Saturday farmers market will remain at Veterans Park).
Though concerns have been expressed that the site may not have enough parking if big crowds turn out for the market or for events like concerts, two parking studies indicate that it should not be a problem on a daily basis. Cornerstone will share parking with the co-op, and the developer also owns a nearby site that could be used for parking if the need arises.
City Planner Melissa Poehlman told council members last week that many of the people who come to the midweek farmers market are expected to walk or bike. She said the city is requiring a parking plan to handle excessive traffic related to any performance on the site.
Cornerstone’s Colleen Carey said trolleys could be used to carry people from other lots. She said there will be a bus stop at the site, perhaps with docks to charge electric vehicles.
Some have been concerned that Cornerstone’s plans for a performance space could weaken fundraising efforts for a band shell that supporters had hoped would be built at Veterans Park. The city already has earmarked $250,000 in 2014 profits from its municipal liquor store for a band shell.
One of the questions in choosing a location for any band shell is the effect of airport and traffic noise. This year, the city is holding its summer concert series at three locations, including Veterans Park and Lyndale Gardens. Members of the audience will be asked how peripheral noise affects them at the concerts, and that could steer where any band shell goes.
Carey said Cornerstone will wait and see what happens this summer. She said her firm doesn’t “have any assumption that anyone is giving us money for a band shell.”
Cornerstone hopes to break ground this fall or next spring. Barton said the site should be fully developed by the end of 2014.