Twin Cities Premium Outlets isn't just attracting shoppers to Eagan. Developers also are looking for deals near the mall and its 100 outlet stores.

In late January, the Eagan City Council heard pitches on three separate projects near the mall: a 51-unit townhouse development, a 142-unit apartment building and a restaurant proposed as part of an apartment and retail complex that's under construction.

Those are in addition to a Hilton Home2 Suites hotel that's being built next to the 400,000-square-foot outlet mall, which opened in August at Hwys. 77 and 13 in the city's Cedar Grove Redevelopment area. The city has been working for more than a decade to remake the once-dormant area, formerly the site of a strip mall, envisioning a mix of retail, office, hotel and residential areas with walkable, manicured streets and public gathering spaces.

"It's hard to say what would happen naturally or how much impact the outlet mall is having but I think certainly it's attracting developers to the area," Mike Ridley, Eagan city planner, said. "Clearly there's a lot more activity down there now because of (the mall), no question."

Mike DeVoe, president of Ryland Homes in the Twin Cities, said the mall's proximity was a key consideration among many factors the company weighed in deciding to pursue the 51-unit townhouse development in Eagan. Cedar Grove Townhomes is planned for two parcels of land totaling five acres at 3850 and 4030 Cedar Grove Parkway.

"We felt like it was a perfect time and a perfect opportunity for us to come in on the heels of the outlet mall and the successful opening it had and provide some residential development in that corner of town," DeVoe said, calling it "a great gateway" to the surrounding residential areas.

Council Member Cyndee Fields said she liked the townhouse development but questioned whether it would have enough guest parking. Ridley said the 180 parking stalls at the townhouses would be twice the number the city requires.

The council heard a plan to add a full-service restaurant with an outdoor patio to the Flats at Cedar Grove, a four-story, 190-unit apartment building with 11,000 square feet of commercial retail space. The restaurant and patio would be a "great addition to the revitalized Cedar Grove" and would "add to the visual interest, walkability and dynamics" of the mall, the developer told city planners.

Both developments need further approval, but the council moved them forward at the Jan. 20 meeting.

Apartment proposal stalls

At the same meeting, developer Steve Liefschultz proposed building the 142-unit Gates of Eagan apartment complex on eight acres southwest of Diffley and Nicols Roads.

Liefschultz asked council members to change the zoning from retail/commercial to high density in the hopes that would spark development. He said he has been unable to find a buyer who wanted the property for retail, hotel or other commercial development since he bought the undeveloped land in 1995. A high-density designation would allow 12 housing units an acre. The proposed building would have 19 units an acre, Ridley said.

"I'm trying to build apartments that would coincide with the number of retail workers that are at the new mall and what their incomes are and what their needs are," Liefschultz told the council, saying the units would be "affordable for the people that work in the retail businesses at the mall."

But Fields and Council Member Paul Bakken both said they were not comfortable with high-density residential development on the property.

"I'd prefer to keep more land area under the commercial uses," Bakken said. "I'd rather explore ways to … see if there are other commercial-type uses and open things up a little more in that direction than shifting over to a residential model."

Fields said she didn't think the proposed apartment complex was a good fit for the area, saying she would prefer medium-density or senior housing. Mayor Mike Maguire said he was sympathetic to the desire to preserve retail/commercial zoning but wasn't sure that was necessary for this site. "We have a fair amount of commercial and retail in Eagan already," Maguire said, noting that commercial projects seem to be moving more to the redevelopment area than elsewhere.

"The lack of activity seems to suggest that maybe it's not zoned properly," Maguire said.

That could justify changing it to a high-density designation, Maguire said, adding that he also would support further conversation with Liefschultz on development prospects for the site. "Because after 20 years, I think a property owner has a right to know what is or isn't going to happen," he said.

Council members tabled Liefschultz's proposal, which will be the subject of a meeting in March.

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.