A rendering of the Golden Valley Business Center. Developer United Properties hopes to construct the two-building complex at 6300 Olson Memorial Highway, formerly occupied by Optum Health.

The Golden Valley City Council agreed 4-1 Dec. 7 to expand how a property between Douglas Drive and the Golden Valley Country Club can be used. The property currently contains a vacant office building formerly occupied by Optum Health, but pending Met Council approval, will next be utilized for light industrial uses.

The vote is the first in a series needed by developer United Properties to raze the current building and construct a new business center in its place.

If approved, work is expected to begin in the summer or fall of 2022.

The two buildings that would make up the business center would total 399,000 square feet, and would feature higher, warehouse-style ceilings and access for large vehicles. The current building’s 304,000 square feet is divided into offices and a data center. The property’s 1,300-space parking lot would also be removed to make way for the buildings.

At the meeting, a representative of the investment group that owned the property Alan Green explained why the group wanted to change from an “office” land use to “light industrial.”

“We really believe the market has spoken,” Greene said. “The greatest demand for this site today is an industrial use with a new building, new configuration.”

The land use change is expected to entice tenants that need accommodations for research and development, light manufacturing and warehouse uses. United Properties previously wrote to the city that demand for office space continued to trend downward, but the demand for industrial uses was up in an effort to avoid the ongoing supply chain issues sparked by the pandemic.

Request for residential

Mayor Shep Harris voted against the measure, saying he would prefer to work with the developer to consider housing on the site instead. Harris said the property had the potential to be a “gateway” to the city’s downtown.

“Things have changed in the past three to five years in terms of what opportunities could happen there,” Harris said.

The Golden Valley Planning Commission recommended the project on a 3-2 vote to the council. Those that voted against also appeared to support other zoning possibilities.

In his comments, Green said pursuing housing on the property had been an initial consideration, but city staff at the time had discouraged the idea, as it was not in line with long-term planning.

Councilmember Gillian Rosenquist also echoed some of Harris’ concerns, and asked whether the new use could be disruptive to nearby residents. Connor McCarthy, a representative for United Properties, said in his experience, business parks of this type had “minimal noise.”

Councilmembers Maurice Harris and Larry Fonnest supported the proposal.

“I love this idea,” said Maurice Harris. He said the potential for Golden Valley to receive a bus rapid transit line in the future could bolster the business center’s appeal.

Fonnest said the center was “a good fit” for Golden Valley that would “keep our economic engines turning long into the future.”

Country Club rep speaks

Another component of the proposal is a possible connection between Douglas and Country Club drives. According to city documents, the city plans to require the developer to dedicate land in the middle of the site to “accommodate a future public right-of-way” of the two roads.

At the meeting, Tom Conlon, a country club board member, reiterated the club’s support for redevelopment, but not for any road changes.

“That parcel next to our golf club is an important parcel in this city, we understand that,” Conlon said. “A road directly to the middle of our practice facility is a real problem for us. If that road were ever to be built, it would almost assure the demise of our club.”

The proposed land use change will next seek endorsement from the Metropolitan Council.

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