After four years of debate, deliberations and revisions, a sprawling mixed-use development in Edina cleared a final hurdle this week.
That project, which for now is being called 7200 and 7250 France Avenue, calls for 309 housing units, including 10 owner-occupied townhouses and 22 rental townhouses. The balance are rental apartments. There will also be 30,000 square feet of commercial space for medical and retail tenants and 597 enclosed parking spaces.
"This project will really establish the vision for what the area will look like in the future," said Dean Dovolis, principal at DJR Architecture.
The project includes the biggest batch of new apartments and condos slated to be built in the city at this time, and it would conform to a new set of design guidelines that were established this summer.
The Edina City Council voted unanimously in favor of the project, which will be built on a 5.7-acre site that now includes two low-rise office buildings and a surface parking lot that's in a prime location across France Avenue from a Macy's Furniture Gallery and a recent mixed-use development with apartments and a Lunds & Byerlys grocery store. Those aging office buildings would be razed.
Dovolis said he started working on the plan nearly four years ago. That project, and several others that didn't move forward, raised the hackles of many in adjacent neighborhoods dominated by single-family houses over concerns that they were taller and more dense than allowed by the comprehensive plan.
To help create a pedestrian-friendly extension from surrounding neighborhoods, the plan calls for landscaped green spaces that would accommodate cars and pedestrians but also create outdoor places to sit and meet.
That element was included in an earlier design that also called for two C-shaped apartment buildings on the west side of the site nearest France Avenue, including one that would be six stories tall and another that would be seven stories.
In April, the project was endorsed by the Edina Planning Commission, but it was later rejected by the City Council, which denied an amendment to the comprehensive plan.
In response to various concerns about the flurry of projects that were being pitched, the Greater Southdale Area District Plan working group was established to discuss the long-range land-use vision for the area and to come up with a set of guidelines for future development.
Dovolis said this is the first project to be shaped by those guidelines.
In response, DJR tweaked its plans, making both buildings slightly shorter and less dense. The 10 for-sale townhouses, which would line the edge of the site, would serve as a buffer between the low-rise housing in the adjacent neighborhood.
"It's still essentially the same project as it was before," Dovolis said.
Earlier, the City Council rejected another developer's plans to build a high-rise condo tower and several other apartment proposals for the area, including a condo tower project of 24 and 20 floors proposed for the site.
DJR has designed four proposed developments for its site.
Council Member Mike Fischer, one of five affirmative votes for the project, has long been an advocate of community discussions about balancing concerns over additional density with the need to achieve a certain scale to make the economics work.
DJR designed the project for France Avenue Equities, which will demolish the buildings over winter and start construction in the spring. The team is still in the process of selecting a general contractor.