Fifteen months of conversations about the future of Wayzata's most important piece of property were based on ideas, concepts, promises.

Now, they're based on plans.

Presbyterian Homes & Services submitted a detailed, 40-page document this week that outlines its $160 million proposal for the 14.5-acre site where the Wayzata Bay Center now sits.

The city's reaction to the document will determine whether the high-end, mixed-use project gets built.

"There are still some people we must convince that what we do is right," said architect Dan Ionescu. "And I strongly believe that what we do is right for the future -- and right for the present."

The plans outline what Ionescu called "a powerfully pedestrian environment," where wide sidewalks and streets divide a district of five buildings and a public plaza. Moreover, a belt line of trees also is planned.

The makeup of those buildings has shifted slightly, an effort to appease some residents and council members' concerns about the project's density.

In recent years, two other developers have failed to garner public support, in part because of the sizes of their respective proposals.

"We were directly responding to the feedback we got from the planning commission and the council," said John Mehrkens, Presbyterian Homes' vice president of project development.

Presbyterian Homes is in it for the senior housing -- 255 units -- but the development also provides 130,000 square feet of retail space, 27,500 square feet of office and 155 units of conventional housing.

The plans answer questions previously left ambiguous: Yes, there will be a hotel -- with 100 rooms. Yes, steel piles are needed to support the development -- and installing them could get noisy.

Non-binding conditions

In public hearings, residents and council members have generally supported Presbyterian Homes' concept for the site. But the council's vote in December to allow the non-profit's advancement to this stage of planning was 3-2 and came with nonbinding conditions.

The company's design team says its plan responds to them: "We heard what the people said," Ionescu said.

The team inventoried and created a preservation plan for a belt line of trees that buffers the project from the neighborhood; used the city's preferred alignment for a nearby intersection, and included more than 60 pages of detailed renderings.

But the council's biggest "area of concern" was height. Originally, two of the development's five buildings reached five stories -- "among the tallest in the city," City Planner Loren Gordon has said.

In the new plans, one of the taller buildings is now a blend of three and four stories rather than five -- a fact written in underlined type in the plans' cover letter.

Conventional housing

Building heights, measured from base to roof ridge, range from 49 feet to 68 feet. The tallest building by both height and elevation is actually four stories; the western-most of the five buildings, it features conventional housing -- either condos or apartments -- atop retail.

Gordon said he and his staff are digging through the plans this week and wouldn't be able to comment on them until next.

The plans address but do not detail the site's "aggressive" storm-water management system meant to achieve "near zero storm water runoff for a 100-year rainfall event."

The plan to capture, treat and reuse the storm water is "above and beyond" what a developer would need to do to meet regulations, said Mike Wyatt of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

Last month, the watershed district's board unanimously approved a resolution of support for the project.

"It's still pretty conceptual," Wyatt said of the engineering, and questions remain about soil conditions.

But Presbyterian Homes' effort is unique, he said.

"We've never had anyone take something to this degree for storm-water management. It's so great that somebody's willing to push it."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168