Some Tonka Bay residents are worried that building apartments and townhouses on property now occupied by a strip mall would worsen parking and traffic in the tiny Lake Minnetonka community.
A developer has outlined a concept to the City Council that would replace part of the Tonka Village Shopping Center with four buildings of four stories each that include about 125 market-rate apartments and townhouses.
No formal proposal has been submitted. Phillip Jaffe, who owns the property, has hired Doran Cos. to evaluate the site and recommend ideas for redeveloping it. Jaffe could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Speaking to the City Council in a chamber crowded with residents last month, Tony Kuechle, Doran’s president of development, presented a map showing that the housing complex would replace the northern portion of Tonka Village on County Road 19. The Hazellewood Grill and Taproom and existing shops to its south would remain, as would Country Club Lanes, a bowling alley next to the strip mall.
The target market for the homes would be empty nesters, Kuechle said.
“The concept behind all this is to actually create a really walkable community to kind of help leverage the existing retail that’s there,” Kuechle said.
A separate clubhouse for the development would contain a management office, fitness center and other amenities. Rents would range from about $1,600 to $4,000, Kuechle said.
A multifamily development would “provide residents with a way to stay here without the burden of the larger homes they lived in when they had three or four kids at home,” said Mayor Gerry De La Vega. “There’s a gap in the [housing] market right now that I think this potentially fills.”
But De La Vega, along with a number of residents who spoke at the meeting, expressed concern that adding housing to the area would exacerbate existing traffic and parking problems.
“Parking and traffic have been issues in the city for as long as I’ve lived here,” said De La Vega, who moved to Tonka Bay 24 years ago. “County Road 19 is well beyond its capacity.”
Traffic backups during rush hours are common on County Road 19, which stretches through Tonka Bay from Navarre on the north to Excelsior on the southeast. Communities on the highway for years have discussed asking Hennepin County to reconstruct it to reduce the traffic problem, but no action has been taken, De La Vega said later.
Residents also expressed concern about the housing development eating up parking spaces at the shopping center, said to be already scarce.
Doran’s concept would include underground parking for the apartments, Kuechle said. But residents argued that losing parking spaces would still cause problems above ground.
No final decision is imminent. De La Vega said he expects Doran will eventually present another plan.
The current concept was “beat up a little bit by some of the residents’ comments,” the mayor said. “From what I understand, Doran has taken some of those comments back and is trying to work on something else.”