One of the largest developers in the Twin Cities has floated a plan to develop apartments in a suburban office park.
Opus Development Co. wants to build 240 to 260 apartments on a former UnitedHealth Group campus on the western edge of Edina, which is in the midst of its biggest apartment boom in decades.
The project is also part of a broader trend, in which apartment developers are shifting from Minneapolis and St. Paul into the suburbs. It would be the first under Edina’s new affordable housing guidelines.
The nearly 22-acre site is just north of Hwy. 62 at the intersection of Hwy. 169 and Lincoln Drive in an area of offices, apartment and condo complexes and single-family homes.
UnitedHealth occupied the site until 2013 when it moved the workers who were there to new buildings across Hwy. 169 in adjacent Minnetonka.
Recently, the Children’s Hospitals & Clinics moved administrative workers into a former UnitedHealth building on the site. In its proposal, Opus said it would tear down the remaining vacant portion of the site, chiefly parking area, to make way for the apartments, to be called Lincoln Drive Residences.
Minnetonka-based Opus recently presented the city of Edina with a site plan and series of renderings that show a four-story, U-shaped building with one level of partly below-grade parking and a courtyard with resident amenities, including a swimming pool. The Children’s Hospitals & Clinics portion of the site would get a new access road.
Opus has yet to submit any formal applications, but it solicited feedback from the city’s planning commission.
Phil Cattanach, director, real estate development for Opus, said the company has the site under option agreement and is moving forward with due diligence before it completes the purchase and begins the entitlement process.
“The site’s proximity to the business campuses was one of many driving factors in our interest in this site,” Cattanach said.
Such sites are increasingly rare in the Twin Cities, especially in and around downtown Minneapolis where thousands of apartments have been built over the past half-decade. But for the first time since the postrecession building boom, more than half of all proposed apartment construction is going to happen in the suburbs.
Marquette Advisors has counted about 4,200 new units that will hit the market this year, with another 8,000 in the works through 2018. At least 60 percent of the total are scheduled for the suburbs.
Edina’s community development director, Cary Teague, said that during the past two years about 1,500 apartments have been built in the city. Most were around the Southdale shopping center along France Avenue between Hwy. 62 and I-494.
Marquette vice president Brent Wittenberg has consulted on several projects in the area recently, including an analysis of housing markets, including Edina, that are within the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit corridor.
Wittenberg said the west Edina project would likely appeal to a variety of renter segments, ranging from single professionals to empty nesters. The location is “strategic and distinguished from Southdale-oriented projects, and should garner positive response from downsizing older adults in nearby neighborhoods,” he said.
The project would also be the first to be built under the guidance of the city’s new affordable housing rules, which require rental housing developers to include income-restricted housing in their plans. About 10 percent of the units would be for affordable housing, even if it’s a full-market rate building. The goal is to create more diverse housing stock.
Edina is also trying to improve its “walk score,” meaning the ability of its residents to access trails, shops and offices without driving. So the project would include a connection to the nearby Nine Mile Creek Regional trail and a new boulevard-style sidewalk that would run parallel to Lincoln Drive.
“We’re trying to create a more walkable, livable mixed-use community and that’s attractive for people right now,” Teague said. “We’re trying to make it all fit together and to create public spaces to connect all the different amenities Edina has to offer.”
David White, left, and Lamont Butler, center, rode the A-line bus departing the 46th Street Blue Line light rail station on Friday.