Eagan Planning Commission approves guide plan amendment

Would anyone like to be neighbors to a movie theater?

MFW Properties would like to construct a four-story, 85-unit multi-family building in the northeast corner of the Emagine movie theater parking lot in Eagan.

The proposed project would consist of market-rate studio and one-bedroom apartments.

“The type of residents we’re looking to target is single adults that want to live in the suburbs but want to be walkable,” said Chris Stokka with MWF Properties. “They don’t want to be car dependent. We don’t feel like there’s a lot of that opportunity in Dakota County.”

Plans show an outdoor patio and fitness room. The complex would have underground parking.

It would be built in what is known as the Cliff Road Commons Special Area. Planner Pam Duziak said the area is intended as a mixed use, walkable area.

In 2019, the movie theater was remodeled after Emagine purchased what was then known as the Regal Cinemas Eagan 16.

By adding luxury seating in the movie theater and the business Minnesota Axe, the number of seats in the theater decreased, which reduced the need for parking spaces.

When Emagine theater plans were approved, blueprints included three new buildings in the parking lot.

Last year, the city approved plans for a boutique grocery store in the southwest corner of the parking lot. The brand associated with the grocery store has not been identified, but officials indicated that it may break ground in 2021.

“The project is in the development approval phase currently,” Duziak said.

Duziak said the grocery store will take up two of the three new buildings. The last could be apartments.

The Eagan Advisory Planning Commission reviewed the plans for the apartment complex during Tuesday’s meeting.

The parking lot is not currently zoned for residential, so it would need a comprehensive guide plan amendment.

Should the proposal get approval from the Eagan City Council, specific development plans will be reviewed.

A developer approached the city with a similar project in 2019, but the applicant withdrew a proposal before it came before the Eagan City Council, Duziak said.

Stokka said the building will be a little bit taller than the theater.

He noted that it’s a short walk to several groceries stores, banks, entertainment options, bus stops, restaurants and veterinarians.

“We intend to be pet friendly,” Stokka said. “For those that work outside of the community, they’ll have some decent transit options too.”

There’s a path from the proposed property that leads to Rahn Park.

Stokka said they’re extremely limited with what could be constructed in that location, and there’s minimal visibility for the property from Cliff Road making it unattractive for commercial.

Stokka noted that there are currently several vacancies in commercial properties along Cliff Road where there’s higher visibility.

The new grocery store will likely increase traffic to the area. The housing development will generate far less traffic than any commercial or retail use, for which it’s currently zoned.

The city received letters from representatives of Emagine, Cliff Retail Center, Wyatt’s Twisted Americana Bar and Grill, Taco Bell and the developer of the proposed grocery store supporting the project.

The request will move on to the City Council.

APC Member Jane Vanderpoel said she was persuaded that the property may be a hard sell under the current zoning.

APC Member Carol Whisnant said she lives in the area and it’s a great place to live.

“There is a real lack of multi-family housing in the area,” Whisnant said.

The City Council has approved a few new high density residential complexes in the past few years, but the majority of them were affordable housing.

MWF Properties broke ground last year on Lexington Flats, a four-story, 50-unit affordable housing development on Lexington Avenue northwest of its intersection with Lone Oak Road.

Another affordable housing development at the southwest corner of Nicols Road and Diffley Road was approved in 2020.

Construction recently began on a new market-rate, 162-unit, four-story apartment complex near Central Park Commons, another retail district.

The proposed development next to Emagine theater is market-rate, not affordable housing.

Warehouse

United Properties would like to develop a 144,000-square-foot office and warehouse building on the corner of Lone Oak Road and Ames Crossing Road.

The vacant land is north of Gateway Business Park and south of Prime Therapeutics headquarters.

It would be about 15-30% office, 15-30% production/manufacturing and the remaining portion would be warehouse.

It would need a zoning change because its current designation, major office, doesn’t allow for more than 50 percent warehouse space.

It would be built on a speculative basis, so United Properties is looking for some flexibility. The plan is to construct the building in 2022.

Connor McCarthy with United Properties said they don’t have a tenant in mind.

Vanderpoel said it makes sense to entertain a different type of land use considering the changes to offices in the past year while noting nearby office vacancies.

Taco Bell

The Planning Commission also approved plans for a Taco Bell on the southwest corner of Lone Oak Road and Holiday Lane.

It would be constructed on a vacant parcel next to Country Inn and Suites.

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