In a built-out suburb like Roseville, finding a clean, well-located site for redevelopment is a rare opportunity.
But city officials have a prime location in the soon-to-be-demolished Dale Street fire station. And they're determined to do something special there — perhaps use it for the first new market-rate apartments in the city in decades.
"We haven't had good, new, rental housing built in the city in 15 or 20 years," said Dean Maschka, board chairman of the Roseville Housing and Redevelopment Authority. "The housing studies we've done shows there's a demand for it.
The city wants to use the site of the 38-year-old fire station to get in on the apartment boom underway in the Twin Cities. The popularity of rental houses has made it easier for developers to obtain financing to build new units. And the location — a block north of Dale and Hwy. 36 — is stoking excitement that it could be quickly snapped up by a developer through a request-for-proposals process, tentatively set to begin in July. Much depends, however, on what emerges from city planing.
The fire station became expendable when the city decided last year to consolidate its three stations into one new one, then obtained three surrounding lots, which have mainly never been developed, to assemble a largely pollution-free site that stretches around the southwest corner of Dale Street and Cope Avenue W.
Roseville's Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is using a $10,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation to hire a nonprofit consultant, Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), to try out a relatively new process in which community-generated wish lists for what could be built are first solicited and then subjected to a financial analysis right at the start.
That way, Roseville HRA Director Patrick Trudgeon says, the city can ensure the public has a say in what gets built, but at the same time, ideas that won't work can be weeded out quickly by market experts working with LISC.
"It's a series of public meetings where not only are they going to get direct feedback from residents on what they'd like to see, but will also bring in the technical expertise on the market realities," he said.
"When you ask someone what they'd like to see on a piece of land, the sky's the limit. So let's have the brainstorming, but let's also temper that with advice from the experts that are actually out there doing development."
The promised openness of the process is something that appeals to some in Roseville, where pitched political and legal battles over development have been fought.
Last year, a proposal for a new Wal-Mart in the Twin Lakes redevelopment zone generated controversy and accusations of residents being left out of the process. It ultimately gained approval in a narrow City Council vote.
"The process (for the fire station redevelopment) should not only be open, it should be very transparent," said council member Tammy McGehee, who has been appointed to an advisory committee to oversee the fire station planning. "That has been a problem here, and I feel pretty strongly about it."
Don Jacobson is a freelancer in St. Paul.