WHITE BEAR LAKE — The developer hopes to break ground later this summer on the four-story apartment complex nestled between the Stadium Sports Bar and Linden Avenue on County Road E.
Schafer Richardson, a development and investment company, has tweaked the plan slightly, adding higher-demand one- and two-bedroom units and nixing three-bedroom options, which means a total of 193 market-rate units. The original concept showed 189 units.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the preliminary plat and development-stage planned unit development at its May 20 meeting. City Council will act on the developer's request June 11 following a final public hearing.
Called White Bear Apartments, the complex will sit on 4.6 acres of land legally known as Strawberry Acres. The property consists of five parcels, two of which are vacant and the other three single-family residences with sizable backyards. At 41 units per acre, zoning will change from general business and medium-density residential to high-density residential.
Planning and Zoning Coordinator Samantha Crosby provided the results of a traffic impact study to the commission. There are two access points: A recently approved right-in/right-out on County Road E, and Linden Avenue.
The county was hesitant to allow any access at first from County E, which likely would have put a kibosh on the project. A concession was a right-in/right-out and the “undesirable consequence” of pushing more traffic onto Linden. A concrete median will prevent illegal left turns to and from the access.
Traffic engineers estimate the complex will generate 956 trips a day; 76% of those will use Linden and 24% will use E, according to Crosby. “Linden currently has 1,100 trips per day and is designed to handle the additional trips,” she noted.
Linden Avenue townhome owner Karen Bushee was the only resident to speak during a public hearing. She asked the commission to consider another access road — Hoffman — for safety reasons. The homeowner worries about being rear-ended due to the close proximity of her driveway to E.
Commissioner Mark Lynch tried to explain to Bushee that Hoffman Road cannot be accessed from the apartment complex at this time. “It's not part of the development,” he told her.
“I don't feel heard about this safety issue,” maintained Bushee, who repeatedly asked that Hoffman access be considered.
Commissioner Marvin Reed iterated what Lynch said, pointing out that the parking lot dead ends in the upper northwest corner adjoining the Stadium property. It could go through the Stadium eventually, but not now, Reed said.
According to Crosby, Schafer Richardson is buying the Stadium land and leasing it back to the restaurant owners. Asked if a second complex was planned on that 5.7-acre parcel, company Vice President Maureen Michalski said she preferred not to comment. City staff refer to the project as phase one, so a second complex sounds probable.
The city has talked to traffic engineers about an outlet at Hoffman, Crosby said, but there is little support. There is also no stoplight at Hoffman and E, making it “less safe” than the Linden intersection.
As part of the park dedication, a triangular piece of land west of Hoffman Road is being negotiated to create a trailhead connection to the future Bruce Vento Regional Trail extension. The small piece will be deeded to the city after the plat has been recorded.
The developer is offering a number of features that exceed minimum code requirements, Crosby pointed out. There is a tree trench for stormwater — like a rain garden for trees; car charging stations for electric vehicles in the underground parking lot; a dedicated recycling chute; a dog grooming station and architectural features such as a stone base, shake siding and residential roofline. There will also be a freezer/refrigeration unit for food deliveries in the reception area.
A similar complex was built in Blaine in 2017, Michalski said. The studios were rented before it opened. “There was much more demand for smaller, more affordable units,” she noted. “The price point for a two- or three-bedroom is at the point where people could afford a mortgage.”
Commissioner Lynch said he “likes the plan,” and recommended approval. The commission unanimously agreed.