Bhatti GI

A new medical office and surgery center is being proposed for the Southdale medical district. The building would house Ahsan Bhatti, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of digestive diseases. (Photo courtesy city of Edina)

A gastroenterology doctor is proposing to build a new medical office and surgery center within the Southdale medical district.

Ahsan Bhatti, who specializes in the treatment of digestive diseases, is working with MSP Commercial and Pope Architects, Inc. to propose a new three-story, 24,000-square-foot medical building. The project would replace a current office building, located at 6500 Barrie Road, which was first constructed in 1971.

The project’s sketch plan was discussed at a Planning Commission meeting May 26.

Bhatti has been practicing medicine for more than two decades. He specializes in the treatment of digestive diseases like gastroesophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel disease, heartburn and more. He currently has three offices, with one in Edina at the Southdale Office Center and the others in Chaska and Shakopee.

The new building could take one to two years to be completed if approved, Sara Bhatti, a spokesperson for the doctor’s office, told the Sun Current in an email. Once opened, the building would have a multi-specialty surgery center with more services than just gastroenterology.

It is a “great location” near the M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital, Sara Bhatti said.

The new medical office proposal includes two levels of parking for a total of 70 spaces. A goal of the project is to make it a Class A-type office space, Don Rolf, senior project manager, said at the meeting. The development team also hopes to keep the trees on the site as well as maximize green space through additional landscaping and the installation of outdoor seating and pedestrian walkways, he added.

The building currently at the site would need to be torn down due to it not meeting standards for energy use, ceiling heights and other parts of its infrastructure, Rolf noted.

Under current city requirements, the development would need to include 120 parking spaces. But, with a new parking ordinance currently moving through the city, that requirement would dip to 80 stalls.

The city’s community development director, Cary Teague, told the Planning Commission he had told the developer to focus on the needed number of spaces for the building’s demand given potential changes coming to the city’s parking space ordinance. The proposed parking ordinance amendment would largely reduce parking space minimum requirements and establish separate regulations for commercial nodes in the city. Southdale is designated as a commercial node. This ordinance will be decided on July 21 by the Edina City Council.

Most patients would be dropped off, making parking counts lower than that of other clinics, Rolf said. He noted that 120 spaces would be much more than needed.

Commissioner Kate Agnew asked whether the development team looked into working with a neighboring parcel to combine parking needs. Rolf responded that they had, but decided it was best to maintain the development alone in the case of changes on that parcel in the future.

The site is currently zoned as a planned office district with an allowed height of up to 12 stories. The development team is proposing three stories.

Commissioner Sheila Berube asked why the development team would not make a taller building with the potential for more tenants since the stories allow for it. Rolf responded that the parking requirements held them back. Cost also plays a role, Sara Bhatti said.

Chair Ian Nemerov echoed Berube’s question, asking Rolf whether there would be an opportunity to go bigger on this project. Rolf replied that the development team would look into it. This includes having conversations with planning and zoning staff to better understand what is “acceptable for this location,” Rolf said in an email to the Sun Current.

Berube praised the development team’s effort to save the trees at the site.

The new building would be “aesthetically vastly superior” to what is there now, said Commissioner David Alkire. “Great step forward,” he said.

The project proposal is not yet finalized. Sara Bhatti said the development team plans to incorporate feedback from the city and further engage with the public.

The Edina City Council plans to discuss the project at its June 15 meeting. Rolf said the development team would evaluate the project’s scope after that meeting.

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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