Brooklyn Center hosted a developer panel discussion April 17, giving residents an opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions of both the principal developer of its so-called “opportunity site” as well as unaffiliated developers working in the local marketplace.
The well-attended meeting, which was hosted at the Brookdale Library, was one of four-part series of workshops the city has hosted as it moves towards further planning for the site.
The opportunity site is an 80-acre site bounded by Shingle Creek Parkway, Bass Lake Road, Highway 100, and Summit Drive North. The portion of the site referred to the Brookdale Ford and Brookdale Square sites are currently owned by the city’s Economic Development Authority, which has a preliminary development agreement with the developer Alatus LLC for the site. This city-owned portion is approximately 35 acres in footprint and is located in the southern area of the opportunity site.
The general concept plan for the site is for a walkable city center with mixed uses. Consideration of the site for such a use has been ongoing since 2002.
The panel featured five developers: Bob Lux of Alatus LLC, Lukas Van Sistine of ESG Architects, Michael Byrd of WNC and Associates, Emma Kasiga of African Development Center, and Edward Engler of Upland Real Estate Group, Inc.
Lux is the founder of Alatus and serves as its principal. “Our firm really focuses its attention on [what] I would call larger scale, difficult projects that are more aspirational in nature,” he said. “We were the group behind the redevelopment of Block E into Mayo Clinic Square, which was a very problemed project that we worked hand-in-hand with the city and the stakeholders in the neighborhood.”
Alatus wants to leave a lasting impact on the community, Lux said. “There’s multiple types of developers. There’s those that just want to develop to make money. There’s those that want to develop to own long-term properties. And there’s those that want to create something, not necessarily as a legacy, but as where you’re going to leave a mark on a community and really have an influence into the future. I really probably fall into that later one … we start by this type of engagement on virtually every one of our projects where it’s about listening to the neighbors and listening to the stakeholders as far what’s really needed in the market.”
He said it’s important to ensure that communities aren’t gentrified, but also that it’s important to have a diversity of people, incomes, and properties in a community.
Alatus does not deal with big box retail development, Lux said. “Our goal would be to figure out how to make this a very walkable community, not only on the 80-acre site but really leading across the freeway, across [Highway] 100 to the east side … all of this should be able to be connected.”
Potential difficulties for development include the likelihood of pollution at the site, as well as a high water table that could preclude the potential for underground parking or deep basins, Lux said. “The challenge of a site like this, quite honestly, a lot of it comes down to infrastructure, you know, how do you pay for all of the new roads, and the sidewalks, and the streets, and the curb and gutter, and the sewer and all of that,” he said.
“Housing is going to be the primary driver in the area, and then smaller shop retail, which is really kind of code words for restaurants, and entertainment destinations. We do have a theater group, a well-regarded theater group that has expressed a lot of interest in coming here,” Lux added, noting that Alatus has been unsuccessful in recruiting a large grocery store to build at the site.
“My challenge to the people that I usually work with is to be present, to be at the table to make sure that their opinions are heard,” Kasiga said.
Brooklyn Center has a fair amount of naturally occurring affordable housing, as opposed to subsidized or otherwise regulated affordable housing, Byrd said. Less than 5 percent of the city’s housing is subsidized for affordability, said Meg Beekman, community development director.
Lux said Alatus does not plan to concentrate affordable housing in the development, but rather to have it mixed with market rate housing.
The next meeting on the opportunity site is 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at the Brookdale Library.
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