Four soaring glass buildings that have become landmarks at Bloomington Central Station are likely to be joined next year by a more grounded building: a shorter, 420-unit apartment building faced mostly with stucco and metal.
At a Bloomington City Council meeting last week, the more urban design didn’t sit well with some people who already live in the sleek, glass-skinned Reflections condominiums and near the shining HealthPartners headquarters down the road.
But by a 6-to-1 vote, the City Council indicated that the apartment building may be exactly what it’s looking for to add more residents to the area. It approved final plans for the apartments, which would be developed and owned by Lennar Multifamily Investors.
The apartment building, which would open in 2015, would look very different from the two nearby 17-story Reflections condominium buildings. The apartment building would have six stories, with a parking structure in the middle and four courtyards designated for pet use, exercise and a pool.
That design is a departure from initial plans for the area, which called for more high-rise buildings. Condo residents told the council that the new building would take up too much green space and clash architecturally with other buildings.
But council members said they liked the plan.
“I think variety in that neighborhood is a good thing,” member Karen Nordstrom said. Said Tim Busse, “I don’t think this is a major deviation. In my mind, this is what high-density transit-oriented development looks like.”
Bloomington Central Station occupies 50 acres east of the Mall of America and is bordered by 34th Avenue S., American Boulevard, Old Shakopee Road and 30th Avenue S. A light rail station is there, and the master plan called for 1,100 residential units and two million square feet of office space. A new hotel for the area has been approved.
The Reflections condos added about 260 residential units, and Lennar’s proposed apartments would add 420 more. Lennar also plans a second apartment building that would add another 400 more units, completing the residential plan for the area.
Larry Lee, the city’s community development director, said in an interview that the design of the Lennar apartments, while different from the original plans for the area, would fulfill the city’s goals for a pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented area.
Questions about noise
“Having a lower-rise building with more eyes on the street and doors on the street ... it feels a lot more neighborly and nice and secure,” he said. “It feels cozy.”
Peter Chmielewski, development manager for Lennar Multifamily, told the council that the new building would have high-end luxury apartments with rents from $1,200 to $3,200 a month. He said he believes it will attract the same kind of residents who live at Reflections.
Council members were most concerned with how Lennar would soundproof a building so near the airport. They noted that Reflections’ glass-curtain design means it is basically sealed. While some first-floor units open to patios, windows in the building do not open.
The new apartment’s site would expose residents to the same level of airport noise as the condos get, but the apartments would have wood construction and windows that open. Mayor Gene Winstead wondered about noise insulation and how sound would move between units.
Sound reduction report
“Is Lennar ready to go with a different construction if necessary?” he asked.
“We know we can achieve [sound reduction] through wood framing,” answered Chmielewski. He said Lennar intends to not only build but to own and manage the apartments. “It has to function at the very highest level,” he said.
Lennar has hired an expert in noise mediation to help determine details in the building’s construction and produce a report. Lee said the new building will be expected to meet the same standards for noise reduction as Reflections did, and the developer will have to prove that when the building is complete.
Lee said the city expects to see the sound report early next year.
The council will vote again on the project in the new year because it must approve tax increment financing for the project. City Manager Mark Bernhardson said that will be the crucial vote for the project.
“Without the financing, this project does not move ahead,” he told the council after they approved the project. “So it’s not a done deal.”