Tag Archives: The Crossing

Construction trailer continues to welcome downtown visitors

IMG_3758.JPGThis construction trailer has been sitting unused for at least six months on the old Byzantine property at the corner of 2nd St. and Hwy 3. The people who work at SMSQ can’t be happy but maybe they’re using it for remote office space for Steve Wilmot.

After hours of investigative work, I’ve determined that it’s highly likely the trailer is owned by Gephart Electric. The property is owned by John Mathern, Mendota Homes, and he has not revealed his intentions for the property after he declined to participate with the NDDC in the Building for Creative Professionals, reported back in May by the Nfld News. The empty lot is already an eyesore, as the drought and overflow parking has taken a toll on the grass. What would it take to get the trailer removed by DJJD?

I am NOT a Reporter

MendotaHomesAtCouncil.jpgGriff Wigley found out that I was going to the City Council meeting and he asked me to bring my camera and take a picture. I guess it was like getting a note from my doctor or something.

Pictured at left is John Mathern, giving an update on the Crossing to the Council. He said he was there to discuss “minor changes” in the project, that 50% of the units in the first building are sold, that the second building will be “luxury rental” units, and that he’d be back before the Council with final plans in July, August or September. When asked for more specifics on the units sold, he said that they had “20-some non-contingent purchase agreements” and that “the closings would occur in August, September and October”. When asked about the completion date for the Riverwalk work, he said that it was tied to the second building. So, I guess that means August, September or October.

Other agenda items included the City’s proposed new Stormwater Management Plan. Not many people are interested in this topic but they should be. The plan will be gradually introduced to the public through a series of Open Houses. The Council also approved letting bids on the landscaping project for the corner of Highway 3 and 3rd Street. This was the historic entrance to downtown and hopefully the planned work will contribute to traffic calming and transportation safety at that crucial location in our community.

Then they got to my topic, “Items related to Fargaze Meadows Second Addition”. There were two recommendations forwarded from the Planning Commission on this project. As Chair of the Planning Commission, I thought I would follow-up on the topic. After hearing people in that neighborhood share their concerns, including a half dozen in voice and a half dozen in presence at the most recent meeting, it was clear to the Commission that the people wanted safer streets, sidewalks on both sides of the road, and connected bike paths. It was clear that several Council members don’t really care for sidewalks. Comments were made that sidewalks were not a good use of money, that they were unnecessary for pedestrian safety, and that they were bad for the environment. There was much discussion about “what was the Planning Commission thinking?” Although I was standing in the back of the room, jumping up and down and waving my hand to explain, I must have been invisible. Perhaps I’d inadvertently slipped on Harry Potter’s magic cloak in anticipation of the big event next Friday night. At any rate, the Council voted, narrowly, to support the Commission’s recommendation. I’ve got news for you guys, you are going to be seeing more and more recommendations with two sides of walkways, safer street designs, and connected bike trails.

The Council then spent over an hour discussing changing the requirments for a concept plan for an annexation request. Two property owners in Bridgewater Township [Oops, Greenvale Township] have requested that Northfield annex 452 acres into the city. The parcels are located a bit northwest of the hospital and the EDA has been looking at creating a third business park in that location. A number of people in the audience were quite surprised by this topic. Several of the Council members had a few questions too. The Council voted to reduce the concept plan requirements for the land in this particular annexation process.

It was shortly after 9 pm at this point. There were two more topics, including the proposed Rental Ordinance. There were 60 people in the Council Chambers, 20 more watching by television monitor in the hallway, and, by my estimate, another 20 that were being contacted by cell phone as the topic approached. That’s 100 people, each speaking for their allocated 2 minutes. You do the math; I went home.

As I said, I am not a reporter. If you want to know about the Rental Ordinance discussion, ask Suzy Rook.

Podcast: Guest Brian O’Connell, Northfield Community Development Director

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Northfield Community Development Director Brian O’Connell joined us in our new studio home at KYMN on Wednesday.

In addition to our usual frivolity at the beginning of the show, we discussed three topics:

  • the proposed rental ordinance
  • The Crossing
  • annexation.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

Our show, Locally Grown, airs Wednesdays at 5:30 PM on KYMN 1080 AM. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes. We seek your comments and suggestions. Attach a comment to this blog post or use the Contact Us page to send us email. See the show archives for audio of other episodes.

Should the City or Mendota Homes clean up the undeveloped parts of The Crossing?

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The Riverfront Development site was an eyesore for 15 or more years as the photos of the old Kump lumber yard above attest.

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Now it’s looking waaaaaay better as the first condo building and the first office/retail building at The Crossing are finished and have gotten landscaping around them.

But the rest of the development is looking pretty scruffy, now two months since the first owners moved in. See this slideshow of photos I took last week.

Weeds, construction debris and equipment, a big blue dumpster, and large tracts of bare dirt that make for lots of dust when the wind blows mar the rest of the development. It seems like it wouldn’t take much to clean things up, put down some black dirt and seed it with cheap prairie grass. Should Mendota Homes do it? Should the City of Northfield help? (There’s a lot of TIF money in this project.) Should the City encourage MH to do it?

Bruce Morlan’s got a related blog post on this issue.

Strib story on Mendota Homes, The Crossing, and the NDDC

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At 10:45 am today, the StarTribune published this story on their website, to be in tomorrow’s South Section:

Snags delay development of ‘gateway’ to downtown Northfield By Sarah Lemagie
A change in plans, a slower housing market and other complications have delayed plans for artists’ housing, condos and commercial developments.

…the ongoing cooldown in the housing market, particularly for condos, has prompted Mendota Homes to consider new alternatives for the second residential building. The developer had considered putting in a hotel instead of condos, but that idea “is off the table,” said Erin Mathern, development director with Mendota Homes. “I think that luxury rental is probably at the top of our list for that second building,” she said.

For the NDDC, not having land may mean a significant setback for the $6.5 million artists’ building envisioned at the southeast corner of the intersection. Without a site, the group can’t apply for aid that would allow private investors to help pay for construction in return for tax credits. The state’s application deadline for the program is June 19.

The Crossing: stymied, struggling, or spinning?

IMG_0793_1000.jpgI was surprised when I read the article in this week’s Northfield News titled MnDOT holds up Crossing: Right-of-way sale delays Hwy 3 project. (This particular story does NOT require a subscription/login to read.)

(Full disclosure/shameless self-promotion: my wife and I have money down on a condo there. Open house this weekend! Finder’s Fee! Operators are standing by. Not available in stores!)

My understanding was that, like nearly all new condo and mixed-use developments in the state, The Crossing is struggling. (See this Strib article from last week as an example of the problems with mixed-use developments.) Mendota Homes has sold or have commitments on 18-20 of the condo units. They’ve sold 2 of the retail condos. They’ve been shopping the idea of a hotel for the development instead of constructing the second 55-unit condo building. Northfield News reporter Suzanne Rook writes:

Mendota Homes, developers of the 4.64-acre property at the corner of Second Street and Minnesota Highway 3, can’t begin the second phase of its multi-million dollar construction project until the Minnesota Department of Transportation sells the company a couple of small parcels near the center of the development. The property was purchased by MnDOT a few years ago as part of the Highway 3 widening. That project wrapped up last fall, about the time The Crossing’s Phase II was to begin. Northfield’s Community Development Director Brian O’Connell said the city’s well aware of Mendota’s predicament and has agreed to press MnDOT into selling its excess right-of-way. Mendota, O’Connell said, “can’t move forward with the second phase until they get the land.”

I don’t object to Mendota Homes trying to put a positive spin on a sluggish development. (Here’s a May 1 press release titled Quaint college town south of Minneapolis prides itself on cows, colleges, contentment, and condos on the Dolan Media Newswire that really puts the development in glowing terms.) I’d do the same. And as a future condo owner, I have a stake in the development flourishing as soon as possible.

But it seems to me that the Northfield News has not done its job here, that they’ve just taken the company’s characterization of their situation at face value and turned it into a news story without digging deeper. Or am I off-base?

The Crossing opens for Parade of Homes tours

The Parade of Homes began this weekend and The Crossing, the new mixed-use development on the northwest edge of downtown, now has two models in The Edgewater (residential condo building) open for tours, Thursdays-Sundays, noon to 6. Click photos to enlarge.

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We visited yesterday (we’ve already purchased a unit) to take a few photos, visit the Mendota Homes folks on duty, and smell the new paint.

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One model is furnished, the other, partially.

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The community room (left) is open as well, providing a view of downtown Northfield, the Cannon River, and Carleton College. The model unit across the street (right) is now closed and has apparently been purchased by an insurance agency.

Hotel coming to Northfield Crossing?

I’ve heard from a couple of reputable sources (hence the designation of ‘rumor’ for this blog entry) that Mendota Homes, developer of The Crossing, AKA Northfield Crossing), is trying to replace the planned second condo building in the southwest corner of the site with a hotel. The change in thinking is evidently because of the recent tanking of the condo market locally, statewide, and nationwide.
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The Edgewater is the name of the condo unit currently under construction on the NE corner. The office/retail condos on the NW part of the site are also being built. The hotel would go where the second condo unit, the Riverside, is depicted in the above sitemap.

I’m assuming that Mendota Homes would have to get approval from the City to make this change, since more than $3 million dollars of TIF money was involved in the deal between the City and MH.

Full disclosure: my wife Robbie and I have purchased a unit in the Edgewater. We’re wondering what the positives and negatives might be if this change is approved. Extra traffic? Loss of future neighbors? The latter is a big concern of mine. There probably are others.

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