Pentagon Park north

Sienna on the Park was to eventually include 1,500 apartment units at the Pentagon Park property in southern Edina, but the Edina City Council opted not to grant final approvals for the project. (Illustration by Kaas Wilson Architects)

After four years of planning, designs to redevelop a portion of Edina’s Pentagon Park will not come to fruition.

The Edina City Council voted 3-1 Sept. 20 to deny final approvals for the project, which would have brought 590 apartment units for an initial phase of redevelopment, replacing office buildings on the property.

Councilmembers Bob Stewart, Mary Brindle and Kevin Staunton voted for the resolution denying approval, while Councilmember Mike Fischer provided the dissenting vote. Mayor Jim Hovland was not present for the meeting.

Stewart called the proposal “well below our standards up to this point,” while Fischer was amenable to a request from the developers, Pentagon Revival LLC and Chase Real Estate, to extend the approval deadline 14 days past the Sept. 20 cut-off date.

Branded as Sienna on the Park, the development was to eventually include 1,500 apartment units on 28.91 acres of land situated immediately south of the former Fred Richards Golf Course.

The project’s lack of a prominent gateway to what will become Fred Richards Park was one reason for the denial, as stated in the resolution. The omission of an adequate “parkway” between the development and the park also informed the decision to deny final approvals.

The resolution for denial further states that the project was inadequate in its stormwater infrastructure while failing to meet the city’s needs for pedestrian-friendliness, parking and multimodal transportation considerations.

The project also changed shape since it was initially envisioned as a mixed-use development in 2014. The plan in its final form proposed only to build housing units.

A lack of satisfaction regarding the proposal’s adherence to the city of Edina’s affordable housing policy was another obstacle, Fischer noted. The question over affordable housing, however, provided a reason to extend the deadline for approval, he argued.

About three hours before the council convened to address the Pentagon Park redevelopment project, the developers submitted a slightly revised proposal, Community Development Director Cary Teague noted. The revised proposal didn’t include design changes to the development but did address the disagreement over affordable housing, according to Fischer.

“The affordable housing, in my interpretation, was one of the biggest barriers,” he said. “I don’t want to just jettison all of the work that has been done at this point.”

The city’s affordable housing policy, which requires developers to set aside a portion of a project’s units to be priced for certain income levels, wasn’t the only remaining point of contention, according to Teague. He was also unsatisfied with the proposed 14-day extension.

“That’s just not enough time. There are a lot of outstanding issues,” Teague said.

The request for the extension arrived less than an hour before the council meeting, he noted.

“I really want to send a message to developers down the line that this is not the way we want things done,” Stewart said, expressing a desire to prevent such “Hail Mary passes” from developers.

Regardless of the timing, Brindle saw a set of obligations that the developers had not fulfilled.

“There were requirements in the master development agreement that were not met,” she said.

Staunton was initially in favor of granting the extension, noting it would allow Hovland to be present for the vote.

“I don’t see what the harm of 14 days is if we can have a full council,” Staunton said.

But when it became clear that two other council members would not support the extension, he agreed to vote for denial, noting that a 2-2 vote would result in the project’s rejection anyway.

“It’s clear to me that two of our colleagues are not interested in the extension, and I don’t want it to automatically die, so I’ll approve the denial,” he said.

The denial doesn’t mean the developers can’t one day return with a new proposal, Stewart said, the he still took exception to the revisions proposed just before the council meeting.

“They can come back with a proposal sometime in the future,” Stewart said, “but this is not the right way to do this.”

– Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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