For the past few years the Red Wing City Council and other organizations have been talking about adding more housing to the community.
With the need to pull in new residents, more housing is needed to accommodate a growing population. The council has had discussions about affordable housing options and market rate options.
During the Monday night City Council meeting, the board voted to approve another piece of a housing development planned for an historic bank building downtown.
The approval for a conditional use permit was granted to the developers with a 6-1 vote with council member Becky Norton voting against the motion.
The permit will allow for multiple family residential units in the building at 222 Bush Street. The plans show around 28-32 units and about 1,500 square feet of retail space on the bottom level.
The city has been searching for several years to find a developer for that building. It is in the historic district downtown, so developers have to be conscious about certain changes they make to the building.
“This property has been vacant for a couple of years and has been listed for approximately eight years,” City Planning Manager Steve Kohn said.
The developers have planned to have units on the main level of the building along with the retail space, this is where the conditional use permit is needed.
“The property is zoned as central business district, and we require a conditional use permit in that district for housing that is on a main level,” Kohn said.
The location of the building downtown brings some concerns from the community, one of those concerns is parking.
“One of the main concerns I think people have with downtown and this number of units is parking, as you can see on the site plans there are only six parking stalls on the site,” Kohn said,
“If this were in a different district with brand new construction we would require 60 parking stalls off street for this facility, but this central business district does not require off-street parking at all,” he continued.
Downtown has multiple parking ramps and the city is currently working on a parking study to accommodate growth changes in the downtown area.
“We have three parking ramps downtown and multiple open air lots and about 1,300 on street stalls, so we have adequate parking downtown,” Kohn said.
“We at staff level think there is adequate parking downtown. If you go up to the Twin Cities, and they find out there are many public parking ramps that are close to their building they would be as happy as could be to just walk a block to their residential unit,” he continued.
The developers from Red Wing Development were available during the meeting to answer questions from the council.
During a public hearing in late December, the planning commission discussed the percentage of commercial retail space compared to the residential space on the bottom level.
“Only 4% of this building is going to be used for retail space and that is something we wanted them to discuss and decide if that is appropriate for this building, but again this building is very unique,” Kohn said. “If it was a normal storefront we wouldn’t want to see residential on that first floor at all.”
The way the building is constructed, there is only an accessible entrance through one corner of the building.
This would make the retail space more of a shopping center if they required more retail space in the building.
Council member Becky Norton pushed for more of the bottom level to be used as retail space.
“I am in favor of requiring 2,500 square feet for retail space. I get that it is a large space to have for one single tenant, but I have worked with individuals who have looked for small spaces downtown and there isn’t any on the first floor downtown,” she said.
“I really support a mix of both retail and office space downtown and I think it is a reasonable ask of us and of our community to provide that amount of retail space,” she continued.
Developers were adamant that 1,500 square feet is a good amount for retail and commercial and that retailers commonly want a store front facing the street with windows, rather than a shopping center style.
“With the retail space, I’m also a commercial broker and the reason we chose 1,500 was kind of the organic layout of the building, ” Cate DeBates from Red Wing Development said.
“If we do make the space any larger we can’t make the store front window space any larger and I think that is what any retailer, in my tenure as a commercial specific broker, that is what they are really paying for. That 1,500 is a sweet spot for retail use,” she continued.
Another concern from council members was the lack of a mix in unit sizes. Many of the units were only one bedroom.
“A couple things I want to let the council know is we did heed the amount of apartments and sizes and have expanded three of the basement level units to include additional bedrooms and larger space,” DeBates said.
Although Norton voted against the motion she did explain to the developers that she supports the overall project, she would just like to see more retail space downtown.
“I want to say that I think this is a great project, it has been vacant for some number of years and I do really admire and appreciate what you’re doing for the community, I just also think we really need retail space and I hope that you’ll take a look at that,” she said.
This development fits into goals in both the 2040 Plan and Downtown Action Plan. These plans encourage the reuse of historic buildings downtown and developing additional housing options downtown.
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