Developers want to erect residential towers connected by a bike-pedestrian bridge over France Avenue as part of a plan to remake a busy Edina intersection.
The Crossroads Project — submitted to the city Tuesday and expected to cost more than $100 million — proposes a 19-floor residential tower on the small surface parking lot at the northwest corner of the Centennial Shops retail center at France Avenue S. and Gallagher Drive. Two dated office buildings kitty-corner across France also would be demolished for a 14-floor residential tower as well as a U-shaped apartment complex of varying heights.
The development is the latest suburban project to push the envelope for how tall buildings should be. Last month, another Edina project — condo towers across from the Galleria and Southdale shopping centers — received a lukewarm response.
“We’re going to have to figure out as our town grows now vertically … what’s going to be appropriate and in what particular locations you would even consider it,” said Edina Mayor Jim Hovland in an interview.
Hovland said he remained guarded about the Crossroads Project and noted that its height would need to be heavily discussed, but he offered preliminary praise for the developers’ vision.
“You have the practical ability to move people safely across the road in a nonmotorized way plus it has the ability to be something aesthetically pleasing and really iconic in the sense of defining your town like a small version of the [Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden] or the arch in St. Louis,” he said.
If approved, the project would provide a missing link to the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail, which when completed will stretch about 15 miles from Hopkins to Bloomington. Right now, people must cross several lanes of traffic on France.
The Crossroads piece would be fully incorporated into the building design, a move that could be one of a kind, said Dean Dovolis, principal at DJR Architecture, which created the master plan for the development.
“There is nothing else similar to this project being proposed out there,” Dovolis said.
He said he believed the development could provide a similar “civic meeting point” for residents as the High Line elevated public park in New York City.
Renderings show that the towers could be connected by a cable-suspended bridge made of wooden planks, but the exact design and materials of the bridge are still to be determined.
The Three Rivers Park District, which manages the trail, is reviewing the feasibility of the bridge, said Jonathan Vlaming, associate superintendent for the Park District. The Park District received the plans Tuesday as well.
“I think the developers are very creative, and it’s an interesting concept, but we do need to take a look at the engineering of it,” Vlaming said.
Several years ago, the city received a federal highway grant of more than $1 million for a pedestrian bridge over France Avenue, but planners instead used the money to improve crossings at several France intersections.
Right now, the France crossing is “a viable, safe crossing,” Vlaming said.
The largest gap in the Nine Mile trail has been through Edina, but the 7-mile stretch through the city should be completed by next summer.
As part of the city’s street reconstruction plans, the trail is being built from Fred Richards Park going east to the existing paved trail at Gallagher Drive. Work is also going on to complete another bridge over Crosstown Hwy. 62 at Bredesen Park. The trail’s pedestrian and bike bridge that crosses over Hwy. 100 north of Interstate 494 was finished last fall.
“It does a really good job of bridging the east to the west,” said Terry Minarik, principal at landscape architecture firm Confluence, which is working on the project. “I think this pedestrian access by overpassing the roadway makes a more direct connection.”
In all, the Crossroads development likely would take about five years to complete and would be done in phases. Michigan-based Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, which owns Centennial Shops, and New York-based EG Capital, which owns the office buildings, agreed to work together to create the project.
“For a center like ours, we can only see a great future in it,” said Carol Dooney, vice president of development for Ramco.
Jamie Stolpestad, principal at EG Capital, said the residential buildings would help diversify the housing stock of Edina, which consists mostly of single-family houses. “You have to bring height if you want more amenities,” he said.
It still hasn’t been decided if the two towers would have apartment units, condos or a mix of both.
The smaller, U-shaped complex would have 121 to 164 rental units and 39,000 square feet for commercial use, with a focus on wellness and preventive health. The adjacent tower at 7250 France Av. S. would offer 145 to 170 units and 13,500 of retail space. Both buildings would have two levels of underground parking.
At the Centennial Shops site, there would be three levels of underground parking for the 19-story building.
“I think the legacy will be showing how density is livable in our community,” said Aron Johnson, DJR project manager on Crossroads.
Developers hope to discuss the project at the July 26 Planning Commission meeting and then the Aug. 2 City Council meeting. The bridge component also would need approval from the Three Rivers Park District and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.