The fate of Canterbury Park’s $400 million redevelopment project now lies in the hands of Shakopee’s City Council. To keep the racetrack’s vision alive, CEO Randy Sampson is asking the five-member body to achieve something they rarely have: consensus.
It would take a super-majority — at least four votes — to make a comprehensive plan amendment allowing for high-density housing on the sprawling site. Canterbury is currently zoned as an entertainment district, which does not permit residential housing.
The proposed upscale living complex on the track’s west side, dubbed Canterbury Commons, is designed to include more than 600 apartments, 100 townhouses and a 120-room boutique hotel.
Doran Cos. signed on to build the apartments, set in a gated community on the farm fields near the horse track. It would be the first domino of a much larger mixed-use development for specialty retail, eateries and office space.
If approved, project architect John Shardlow said the “catalytic investment” could help solve the city’s housing crunch by satisfying a growing population drawn by a host of new employers, including Amazon, Shutterfly and Entrust Datacard, which moved its international headquarters to Shakopee in 2015.
“To a large degree, Canterbury helped put Shakopee on the map,” Sampson said during a Nov. 21 presentation at City Hall, meant to bolster support for what he described as an economic windfall.
Right now, the racetrack pays about $800,000 in property taxes. Upon completion, Sampson estimates the project will generate $7 million in city taxes.
At the council workshop, Sampson pitched Canterbury as a community asset that employs more than 700 workers and has drawn thousands of visitors to the region since 1985. Several longtime Canterbury employees praised the racetrack’s charitable giving and commitment to hiring local talent.
Over the last few decades, Sampson said Canterbury has spurred dense growth around its 380-acre plot but has been unable to revitalize its own land with existing zoning laws.
In addition to housing, a key part of the proposal would involve relocating half of the horse stables to make room for development across about 130 open acres. Moving the barns has been part of the plan for more than a decade, said Canterbury spokesman Jeff Maday.
Doran’s apartments are pivotal to getting the ball moving again, advocates said.
With rental vacancy rates hovering around 1 percent, Doran has no doubt that luxury units touting amenities like swimming pools, a theater and concierge will appeal to young professionals and empty nesters alike. Rents are expected to range from $1,322 to $2,200 a month for one- to three-bedroom units, said Tony Kuechle, Doran’s senior vice president of development.
“It’s hard to imagine us wanting to build a $100 million development in a city and them not wanting it,” Kuechle said.
Yet, the project has met considerable resistance from two City Council members who have expressed concerns over traffic congestion, tax-increment financing and public infrastructure costs needed to support the development.
Council Member Matt Lehman, who is opposed to adding high-density housing, said he doesn’t believe taxpayers should foot the bill for cosmetic improvements to streets and landscaping. Council Member Mike Luce appears to be the swing vote.
Mayor Bill Mars and supporting council members have grown increasingly frustrated by their colleagues’ reluctance to help Canterbury. If the amendment fails Dec. 19, Doran says it will be forced to walk away after eight months of planning.
In September, CPM Cos. pulled the plug on a $24 million downtown redevelopment project following weeks of internal turmoil. Council Member Jay Whiting said he doesn’t want to make the same mistake this time around.
“That whole project will be in the wind,” Whiting said.