More time OK’d for downtown plan

Feedback, preliminary engineering needed to assemble proposal for consideration

Maggie Stanwood

Contributing Writer

A preliminary development agreement for a multi-family, mixed-use development in downtown Elk River has been extended to allow the developer to receive more public input and begin design and preliminary engineering for the project.

The preliminary development agreement between the city of Elk River and developer Modern Construction was approved at an Elk River City Council meeting in October 2019. The agreement does not obligate the city to move forward with whatever proposed plan the developer would bring back, but it does specify that the city would not work with another developer interested in the same area for the length of the agreement.

Previously, the agreement ran until February 2020. Now the agreement runs until June.

The agreement allows Modern Construction to explore feasibility and finance options for the development. It also requires the developer to communicate with nearby property owners and businesses to determine support, as well as look at how the development would affect parking and traffic.

The project would bring high-density, market rate housing to downtown Elk River, the demand for which is fast approaching Elk River as in other Twin Cities exurbs, Modern Construction President Jesse Hartung said in a previous meeting.

“I’m excited and confident that I can help make downtown safer for pedestrians, reduce traffic, add some truly state-of-the-art amenities, and probably most importantly solve the parking problems once and for all,” he said in a previous Elk River Star News article about the agreement.

Hartung, an Elk River resident, wrote in a letter requesting the extension that the process of communicating with property and business owners has been slower than expected due to the “large number of stakeholders involved.”

“Coordinating meetings, gathering information, and then updating designs has not moved as quickly as hoped,” he said.

In the letter, Hartung said he has met with many stakeholders already, including the Downtown Rivers Edge Business Association, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce, The Bank of Elk River, First National Bank of Elk River and the Elk River Lutheran Church.

“There is a strong community of business owners downtown working hard to beautify downtown for the city and its residents and I’m excited and honored to be a part of that,” Hartung said.

The proposed site of the project is owned by the city, and is currently used for parking and a farmers market. At the meeting in October, council members expressed concern about losing parking spaces in the downtown area.

Hartung said in his conversations with stakeholders, the concern has been about parking availability, quality, access and proximity, but that the initial site designs include significant increases in parking stalls that are closer to business doors, safer, and more accessible.

According to council documents, the next 30 to 60 days will be spent completing community engagement and the rest of the four-month extension will be used to “drill into” the designs and preliminary engineering.

“I have received an enormous amount of positive feedback from the community so far and I’m looking forward to presenting the council with our vision soon,” Hartung said.

Hartung said he is not able to share designs at the moment, but encourages Elk River residents and business owners to share ideas and feedback with him at jesse@modernconstructionmn.com.

A joint meeting with Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Elk River City Council will be scheduled on June 1 to discuss the initial proposal.

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