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Health hub is growing on Coon Rapids Blvd.

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA
  • Star Tribune
  • August 28, 2012 - 1:38 PM

Coon Rapids officials hope that a trifecta of new redevelopment projects on Coon Rapids Boulevard will go a long way to affirm the corridor's identity as a medical destination.

In recent weeks, the City Council has approved plans for a 123,000-square-foot, four-story expansion for Mercy Hospital; a 32,000-square-foot office building for North Suburban Eye Specialists, and the 100-unit Autumn GlenSenior Living complex.

The area around the hospital has been given the moniker "Port Wellness"; city planning officials expect that much of the redevelopment that occurs there will be medical-oriented, complementary to the work of the hospital. It was one of four "ports" created to guide redevelopment along the 6-mile corridor, largely neglected in the two decades after much of the city's commercial life moved to Hwy. 10.

"Development around there continues to demonstrate the importance of that site and that corridor and really starts us well down the path toward investment in Coon Rapids Boulevard," said the city's community development director, Marc Nevinski, adding that the projects also are an indication the market is recovering. "That makes everyone feel more confident about trying to move forward with things, and it reaffirms the vision the city has had for that area."

The three projects are clustered north of Coon Rapids Boulevard, near Round Lake Boulevard, north and east of Mercy Hospital.

• Mercy Hospital expansion: The $17 million project is a four-story brick building that will house unspecified medical specialty clinics. The building will not include overnight hospital occupancy. It is being built on the boulevard, on hospital-owned land at Blackfoot Street. In September, the city's Planning Commission expects to hear a proposal for a skyway-type pedestrian bridge that will link the building to medical offices across the boulevard on the hospital's main campus. That structure will become a "signature on Coon Rapids Boulevard," Nevinski predicted. Allina representatives told the city they expect to begin construction this fall.

• North Suburban Eye Clinic: The $6 million single-story office building will be constructed on the former McKay auto dealership site, at the northeast corner of Coon Rapids Boulevard and Round Lake Boulevard. The clinic, where specialists offer general ophthalmology, refractive surgery, cataract surgery, and glaucoma surgery, as well as treatment for retinal, oculoplastic and corneal diseases, will relocate from its current location, to the south of the new site. The company is making use of $400,000 in city tax-increment financing to clear the land for redevelopment. The developer told the city that work on the site likely will begin in September or October.

• Autumn Glen Senior Living: The $19 million assisted-living complex is being built on the former Frank's Nursery site, on the east side of Round Lake Boulevard. The onsite care provider will be Elk River-based Guardian Angels; the rental complex will offer a spectrum of care, from short-term rehabilitation to long-term memory and other care. That project also received $420,000 in tax-increment financing from the city; the money will be used for demolition and cleanup.

When it comes to redevelopment, it's not necessarily the case that success begets success, Nevinski said, though the addition of these larger projects could help to buttress smaller ones.

"The area up there is well established, and I think the overall market, in terms of getting financing, in terms of the amount and price of leasable space and construction costs, all those are probably bigger influences," he said.

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

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