The Blake Station on the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line is a “prime site” for housing and has incredible development potential—but it will require the continued improvement of the Blake Road corridor that the city envisions.
That’s the conclusion a panel of developers, market specialists and urban designers arrived at after a multi-part workshop examining five key station areas on the line: Mitchell and Golden Triangle stations in Eden Prairie, Blake Station in Hopkins, Beltline Station in St. Louis Park and Penn Station in Minneapolis. The panel also opted to look at the Town Center station in Eden Prairie.
Click on the PDF to the right of this article to view the station locations.
The goal of the Southwest Corridor Development Scenarios Workshop was to bring in private-sector recommendations on how to maximize opportunities and avoid pitfalls.
The group saw some of the greatest potential in the Blake Station, and their vision roughly aligned with what city officials are already talking about. The development panel suggested that the station be moved closer to Blake Road. They wanted to minimize parking facilities at the station. They recommended that retail be limited so that it wouldn’t compete with downtown Hopkins. And they recommended continued improvements to the Blake Road corridor.
Still, there were areas of difference. The panel thought a global market idea that city officials have discussed would divert resources and retail demand from downtown Hopkins.
Below is a look at how the development panel viewed each of the stations.
(Panelists: Will Fleissig, president of San Francisco-based TransACT, which specializes in transit-oriented development; Ian Carlton, TransACT director of development services; Julian Pancoast, TransACT; Marilee Utter, member of the Urban Land Institute and president of Citiventure Associates; Colleen Carey, president of The Cornerstone Group; John Breitinger, vice president of investment and development at United Properties; Pat Mascia, senior vice president of Twin Cities operations at Duke Realty; Mark Ruff, senior financial adviser and principal at Ehlers)
The panel saw “little near-term development potential” around Mitchell Station because the land around it is owned exclusively by Eaton Corp., which doesn’t intend to move. It also thought the mixed-use development envisioned at other areas would require big subsidies and would “cannibalize” other markets. “The market will not support walkable urbanism in that area, period,” the report stated. Consequently, they advised planners not to spend a significant amount of resources at this time and to instead focus on the better-positioned Town Center station.
- Likely outcome: Park and ride
- Development potential: Low at the current site, medium if the route were re-aligned along Technology Drive between the Southwest LRT and Mitchell.
- Development timeframe: Long-term
- Additional infrastructure: Very little, perhaps extending Lone Oak Road or adding a walkable streetscape. “Infrastructure investments will not yield economic benefits.”
- What developers will do: Wait to acquire Eaton at a reasonable price and then build medium-density office and residential centered on people who use cars to get to work.
Golden Triangle Station
There is little opportunity for transit-oriented development because the Golden Triangle area’s infrastructure is so centered on vehicles. It would require extensive infrastructure improvements to make it more conducive to transit. However, a shuttle could be provided that would allow riders to get to the many businesses in the area that aren’t within walking distance of the station.
- Likely outcome: The area will remain a vehicle-focused office park, with the addition of a park and ride that will serve commuters from the south.
- Development potential: Low
- Development timeframe: Medium-term
- Additional infrastructure: Very little. As with Mitchell Station, the panel recommended saving resources for sites with more potential.
- What developers will do: Upgrade and repurpose existing buildings, build “one-off” apartment buildings centered on people who travel by autos, mid-rise office, one hotel
Town Center Station
Town Center has the most potential of the Eden Prairie stations, so the developers recommended that it receive the lion’s share of attention and resources among the Eden Prairie stations. It also would benefit greatly from a move closer to Eden Prairie Center.
- Likely outcome: A “walkable, vibrant urban center.” Transit-oriented development will happen incrementally in the short term. Larger properties, such as Eden Prairie Center, will be redeveloped on a bigger scale as demand increases.
- Development potential: Medium potential at the current site near Costco, high if it were moved closer to Eden Prairie Center
- Development timeframe: Long-term at the current site, medium-term if it were closer to Eden Prairie Center
- Additional infrastructure: Expand and enhance the street network in the area. This makes it easier for people to get around, especially pedestrians, easier for developers to scale up with market demand.
- What developers will do: If the station stays where it’s planned, developers will wait for the sale of retail properties. When Eden Prairie Center gets denser, they may build a so-called “Dallas donut”—an apartment complex wrapped around a parking structure—or “mid-box retail.”
The Blake Station had the highest development potential among the station areas reviewed. The panel envisioned it as a prime spot for the residential developments that the Southwest line will need to be successful. However, the group did not like the current plan to put the station at 43 Hoops (a position the city agrees with). It recommended moving the station closer to Blake Road, preferably near the intersection with Excelsior, for greater visibility and access.
- Likely outcome: Dense residential neighborhood with limited park and ride.
- Development potential: High
- Development timeframe: Short-term
- Additional infrastructure: Blake Road needs to be transformed into a “complete street” that is more pedestrian and bike friendly between Excelsior and Highway 7. (Click here for a three-part series on complete streets and what Hopkins planners envision.) Improvements around Minnehaha Creek and Cottageville Park also need to continue.
- What developers will do: Build mid-rise workforce housing with limited, ground-floor retail serving the area. There will likely be both affordable and market-rate housing, rental and owned units and a full spectrum of housing choices—apartments, live/work spaces, lofts and condos.
The Beltline Station offers a great opportunity to transform the industrial area southwest of the station “into a progressive mixed us neighborhood with hip housing and innovative businesses.” But the area needs significant infrastructure improvements to make the most of its potential. Raleigh Road should be extended to Park Glen Road, and Beltline Boulevard and County Road 25 should become complete streets.
- Likely outcome: Land north of Park Glen and west of Raleigh will become a major transit-oriented development site. There will be stronger potential for Beltline Business Park development. Beltline and County Road 25 could become “grand urban boulevards.” Properties along County Road 25 and Beltline could be redeveloped for transit- or auto-oriented uses.
- Development potential: Medium with the current station location, high if it were shifted west of Beltline Boulevard closer to Raleigh Road
- Development timeframe: Short-term (after infrastructure improvements are made)
- Additional infrastructure: Improve pedestrian and bicycle crossing at County Road 25 and add complete street features along Beltline to the Rec Center. Build a north-south connector between West 36th and Excelsior. Crease a shuttle along Beltline between the clinic and Park Commons. Extend Raleigh Road north to Park Glen with a property acquisition.
- What developers will do: Buy available Raleigh blocks to repurpose and use for live/work space, start-up space or other vertical development.
Penn Station has the unwanted distinction of being the most expensive station on the line at the same time it’s thought to have low ridership and limited development potential, particularly transit-oriented development. The potential is so bad that the panel suggested eliminating the station as a cost-saving measure that would allow changes in other places. If that doesn’t happen, the panel said a shuttle to businesses at Interstate 394 and Highway 100 could make the most of what transit opportunities are there.
- Likely outcome: Two to three buildings will be built in the area, likely high-end residential or certain types of office. The area’s limited access will keep retail demand low. New development likely won’t integrate transit into the projects, and they won’t be able to subsidize the station.
- Development potential: Low under the current plan, medium off-site development potential if a shuttle is put in place
- Development timeframe: Long-term under the current plan, short-term with a shuttle
- Additional infrastructure: Improve pedestrian connections across the Penn Avenue bridge. Improve the South Wayzata Boulevard streetscape.
- What developers will do: Wait until prices drop significantly before building a tower with a parking ramp.