One of Wayzata’s most iconic buildings will remain vacant for the time being.
The Wayzata City Council on Dec. 15 unanimously passed a resolution denying a concept planned unit development plan and the preliminary plat for the former TCF Bank headquarters site at 200 Lake St. E.
Wayzata’s Planning Commission had recommended denial of the plan. This vote was the fourth denial of plans for the site going back to the Sept. 21 Planning Commission meeting as Minnetonka-based Lake West Development withdrew its initial proposal after that vote.
Minneapolis-based ESG Architecture & Design submitted a revised project concept in October. At the Nov. 16 meeting, the Planning Commission cited several factors that led to the latest denial.
The 52,600 square-foot building built in 1990 sits on more than 2 acres with 135 surface parking stalls. It was put up for sale in January after TCF merged with Chemical Bank in 2019 and moved its headquarters to Detroit.
The latest plan proposed converting the existing building into 10 condominiums and constructing two new residential buildings on either side, replacing two surface parking lots. The building to the east would be a 10-unit condominium (down from 11) and the building to the west would be an 18-unit, two-building townhome development (instead of a 45-unit apartment building) with smaller “pocket” parks on each end of the property.
To meet the city’s recommended maximum building height, the height of the eastern building would be lowered from nearly 40 feet to 35 feet.
The project would accommodate 85 residents in 38 units, according to the developer.
Additional streetscape features would add to the Panoway project to separate the sidewalk from the bike path and street in addition to more seating areas, landscape, and bike racks to meet the needs of those using area bike trails.
The west park would have a separate walkway to connect Lake Street and Ferndale Road South. Landscaping, seating and bike racks would be added. Both parks would be open to the public for input or cooperation from other interested parties like Three Rivers Park District.
ESG Principal Burt Coffin said he appreciated the cooperation from city staff in the process to get to this point. He noted how difficult of a project it is to “thread a needle for where we need to go.”
The issues remain to revolve around the scale of the project to reflect the character of the surroundings while meeting a density in population.
Councilmember Johanna McCarthy summed up the plan as trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. To meet the necessary density requirements set in place by the Metropolitan Council, that might diminish the small-town atmosphere of Wayzata.
“I commend the applicant for the responsiveness to our feedback to reduce the height, density, parking and cutbacks but this project does not illude the charm from the TCF Building and has a very linear feel to create this tunnel effect along Lake Street,” McCarthy said.
Given the project spans a full city block in a notable area of the community, McCarthy said she believes the project should reach beyond a level of scrutiny, “far beyond what we’ve done the last few years.”
Mayor Ken Willcox said: “What we have is a long, narrow piece of property and if you build it out you have a long, narrow building and what you want to avoid is a Great Wall of China. That’s what you kind of get right now.
“It potentially creates a canyon feeling walking on that part of Lake Street. It’s not violating any ordinances,” Willcox added.
Willcox said his recommendation would be two-story buildings with more open spaces like the current parking lots, “this is not wonderful financially for the applicant,” he noted.
Given the prominence of the TCF Building, the council agreed that more elements from the distinctive building need to be carried through the entire project.
Councilmember Dan Koch said he thought carrying the roofline through the project would be difficult but adding brownstone or another element as a nod to the building would help tie the site together.
Councilmember Jeff Buchanan said he struggled to find a public benefit with the project. “I don’t think there is enough and visually it is way too imposing,” he said. “I’d love to see this site develop but this application needs some work.”
Councilmember Alex Plechash said: “Do we have a plan to come back with lower density while keeping the small-town charm, not having this tunnel effect while blocking views [of Lake Minnetonka] from across the street?”
Before the final vote, Koch summed up the desire to see the site redeveloped into something useful.
As for the next step, ESG has the option to submit a new planned unit development with the changes expressed or wait another six months for the current PUD to be considered again by the Planning Commission and City Council.