A $75 million retail and apartment complex has been proposed for the busy corner of Shady Oak Road and Excelsior Boulevard in Minnetonka -- near the anticipated Southwest light-rail transit station as well as UnitedHealth Group's budding corporate campus in nearby Eden Prairie.

Minnetonka developer Richard Anderson will present his preliminary plan for the 17-acre patch of land to the Minnetonka Planning Commission Thursday night.

Anderson calls the project Ecostation 2012 and envisions an intersection that marries commerce, housing and transportation. "Light rail does provide apartment dwellers the ability to travel downtown," he said. "But I also see the housing serving the 6,500 employees who will be working at UnitedHealth Group down the road."

The longtime developer has proposed three apartment buildings charging market-rate and reduced (for families earning $30,000 or less) rents. The four-story structures would span 350,000 square fee, and would be developed, owned and financed by two unnamed nonprofit groups.

The project also features a 70,000-square-foot Cub Foods grocery store and smaller retail and restaurant outlets, according to Anderson.

Currently, the intersection is carved up among seven property owners and a variety of businesses, including an auto parts store, an excavation business and a vacant Red Owl grocery store.

The proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line would offer high-frequency service to the southwestern suburbs, including Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins and St. Louis Park. If built, the rail line would ultimately connect to the Hiawatha, Central and Northstar lines, as well as high-frequency bus routes in downtown Minneapolis.

A report recently prepared by Minnetonka City Planner Loren Gordon acknowledges that the light rail line "may initiate more interest in mixed-use and high-density development" at the Shady Oak site.

Meanwhile, health insurance giant UnitedHealth has proposed building 1.5 million square feet of office space at Shady Oak Road and the Crosstown, two miles south of Anderson's site, according to spokesman Dimitri Senaratna. That building, which reportedly represents at least a $200 million investment, is expected to house about 6,500 workers.

Another UnitedHealth Group office building, valued at about $75 million and spanning 377,500 square feet, is under construction nearby on Data Park Drive in Minnetonka. Senaratna couldn't confirm the number of employees expected to work in that facility.

Julie Wischnack, Minnetonka's community development director, said Thursday's meeting is intended to give Anderson feedback on his proposal. "Housing on that spot is something we do anticipate, but the type of housing is still up for discussion," she said.

Either way, Anderson hopes to break ground on the project next spring.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752