More High Density Housing in New Hope
By Andrew Richter
Same old thing hits New Hope again;
Tucked on the corner of Hillsboro Avenue and Medicine Lake Road amongst high density residential areas are two lots formerly reserved for limited business use. After New Hope’s Planning Commission approved the proposal Dec. 3 it was brought to the attention of council.
On Dec. 9 City Council was asked to rezone the lots to be residential-office.
Aaron Baruch of Baruch & Associates, LLC recently purchased one of the two lots where a vacated single family home now sits. The other lot is occupied by a State Farm Insurance agency that is looking to sell their property.
Baruch’s hope is to purchase that lot as well and construct an apartment complex on the double lot. The area has been identified by staff as a target redevelopment site but council has had little luck with finding a suitable commercial project due to the surrounding area having been redeveloped in to high density residential properties.
So let’s add more!!
While council had previously received a project proposal years ago with the intent to build a Super America gas station they found it would not be suitable for that particular area. The proposed gas station created issues with nearby high density residential properties related to lighting, hours of operation and outdoor activity.
“I think the rezoning of these two parcels, regardless of what gets built there, is going to be a benefit to the city because we have struggled through the years in trying to do some type of commercial developer,” said Steve Svendsen, chair person of the planning commission. “I think it would give us a little more latitude to looking at something in the future regardless (of what it is).”
In addition there is a shopping center located to the south of the site in Golden Valley that has “an unusual mix of tenants and vacancies.” Because of this, staff questioned whether a commercial development would prosper in the area.
“This area has been tough for us to redevelop,” said Jeff Sargent, community development specialist. “The corner has been up for redevelopment and for whatever reason has not worked. Making this commercial may just not work in this area.”
According to Baruch the site would be best utilized as another residential site as it fits the character of the area and council quickly agreed. To boost council’s confidence in the proposal, Baruch prepared a site plan that included his intentions for the lot at this time. “He’s simply giving you an idea of what could happen on that property,” Sargent said.
Baruch has intentions to construct a three-story, 21-unit apartment complex filled with one and two bedroom units. The apartment would be market-rate with high-end amenities in each unit.
According to Sargent, the apartment, if built, would meet two of New Hope’s housing goals: provide a variety of housing types, styles and choices to meet the needs of the city’s demographics and maintain and enhance multiple family residential neighborhoods.
These apartments don’t do either of that. Apartments are not “a housing type” and how do apartments “enhance residential neighborhoods?”
“Adding a brand new housing complex would be enhancing the area and updating the housing stock in the area,” Sargent said. While Baruch may be hoping to construct a 21-unit complex, unless he purchases the second lot he will have to get special approval from council to incorporate that many units.
No problem there, there’s never a drop of dissent on this council.
As the purchased lot sits, Baruch would be allowed to construct a complex with a maximum of 16 units. If Baruch meets minimum requirements based on building finishes, underground parking, recreational area and in close proximity to public transit he would be eligible to apply to receive a 20 percent density bonus. However, the bonus would still only allow Baruch to include 19 units. Baruch may request council to inquire about a possible text amendment which would allow for even higher density bonuses.
Density bonus? What’s that?
If, however, Baruch purchases the second lot he would be allowed to construct a 38-unit building given he earns all density bonuses. Even then, he could also inquire for a text amendment allowing a 42-unit building be constructed. While council is very mindful of avoiding creating overly dense areas within the city, Sargent informs them the city is expected to increase by 35 percent for number of housing, population and job growth by 2040.
Oh come on, nobody is stupid enough to believe that! This idiot is getting that figure from the Met Council 2040 forecast which even they admit is flawed. If this council had any brains in their heads they’ve laughed at that.
If Baruch does not end up purchasing the second lot and the council rezones the lot, State Farm Insurance could remain in business under the new zoning type.
“It’s kind of the best of both worlds,” Sargent said. While it is too soon to tell what Baruch will plan for his future project proposal and whether or not council will approve, the immediate concern is regarding the rezoning of the land.
The project is expected to “transform the current aging residential home and lot into a premier apartment complex for families and individuals,” according to the written proposal.
Oh how exciting!!
According to the written proposal, “The City of New Hope has much to offer its residents and this site can capitalize on those lifestyle benefits and extend them to many more potential residents.”
Residents within 350 feet of the development have been informed of the proposal and staff has heard no objections. On Dec. 9 City Council unanimously approved the rezoning of both lots from limited business to residential-office.
Oh wow! A unanimous vote in New Hope! Can’t believe that!
If Baruch wishes to continue with the project proposal he will need to provide detailed building plans, trash enclosure locations and access, utility plans, storm water management plans, a landscaping plan and exterior lighting plan.
If all goes well, Baruch hopes to break ground on the project in spring. To do so he is expected to return in front of council in February or March with a project proposal.
As a native of New Hope, Baruch is looking forward to returning to his roots. “I grew up just down the road,” he said. “It’s nice to come back and build something in the community that I think will really transform that area.”
Oh yeah, it’s everyone’s dream to come home and put up high density housing!