February 24, 2011 DAKOTA COUNTY TRIBUNE BUSINESS WEEKLY
A Kenrick Avenue extension: Will they or won’t they? Proposed project in Lakeville sparks concerns about public expenditures by Aaron Vehling THISWEEK NEWSPAPERS
For the bulk of the first decade of the 2000’s, development in Lakeville was a given. Build a road and commercial, residential and even industrial entities would follow. This has been true throughout history during periods of economic progress. Lakeville’s existence would not have been a given had the railroad barons not followed the path they did. Since the economy executed an about-face in 2008, though, commercial and residential development declined, leaving concepts as mere aspirations and pockets with burnt holes. Though Lakeville has not been hit as hard as some metro area cities with clusters of commercial vacancies, there are plenty of property managers throughout the city who are looking for tenants. But as development slowly begins to return to Lakeville – according to NorthMarq, the commercial real estate market bottomed out last year – the discussion of thoroughfares has returned to City Hall. The road discussion centers on the potential Kenrick Avenue extension, which would cost about $2.6 million and provide a quicker connection between the Argonne, Southfork and Timbercrest shopping centers on the east side of I-35. As it stands, to travel between
retailers such as Rainbow and Target, a driver must traverse either the freeway or County Road 50 and 185th Street West. The City has not spent any money yet on the Kenrick-extension project. “It isn’t a project today,” said City Administrator Steve Mielke at a Jan. 24 work session. “It’s a concept.”
Now or later? Property owner Fortune Realty, Inc., of Eagan and city staff have had a few conversations about an expansion, but Fortune has not actively sought the extension, despite placing a prominent for-sale sign facing I-35. Much of the support comes from area businesses. But the city staff included the proposed extension in the 2011 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), so concept or not, discussion is inevitable. Mayor Mark Bellows has been a vocal opponent of the project. He said he is concerned the project is too expensive given the current economy and has argued for its deletion from the 2011 CIP. Some of it is about the perception of the city government, Bellows said. “People (in the community) are so strained and have no trust in government,” he said at that same work session. “They see the $2.6 million and it irritates
them to no end. “The staff can come back and represent a case as to why we should consider it,” he said. Council Member Laurie Rieb responded that she could not yet say “no” to the expansion. “I need more information,” she said. Bellows challenged her, “How can you say ‘yes?’ ” He said that deleting the project would save $2.6 million in new debt issues and about $191,000 per year in new tax levies. “The staff has a whole year to convince us,” Bellows said. “It should not be there now.” Council Member Colleen Ratzlaff LaBeau also opposes it. She said if the demand is not there, then the city should not pursue it right now. Council Member Matt Little would like to see the project delayed, but not deleted, he said. Council Member Kerrin Swecker supports the project and said it would be too early to remove it from the 2011 CIP because businesses are just hearing about it. She told Thisweek in an interview that the connection would allow for a more streamlined traffic flow between Southfork and Timbercrest. The trip between Rainbow and Target would not require a labyrinthine quest. Swecker’s husband, Jaime,
is an area director for Applebee’s. Six south metro stores, including the one near Target on Kenrick Avenue and 185th Street West., are under his jurisdiction. This has led to accusations from some community members, including former City Council candidate and project opponent Marc Bourdeaux, that Swecker should abstain from voting on the issue. There could be a conflict of interest, he said. In an interview with Thisweek, Swecker said she did not think there would be a conflict of interest, but to be certain, she sent a letter to Lakeville City Attorney Roger Knutson for consultation. “I wanted to make sure I do the right thing,” she said. Expansion supporters’ voices have not been as loud as those who are opposed, but among those who have lent their support are Roz Peterson, commercial real estate developer and owner of some property near the proposed expansion, and Minnesota Tile and Stone. Lakeville Applebee’s general manager Tom Wroblewski also spoke in favor of the expansion during public comment at the Feb. 7 City Council meeting. This is what sparked the discussion about Swecker’s potential conflict of interest. Peterson said the city has promised a road for quite some
time through that area. “We have always been in support of connecting that,” she said. But as a School Board Member who has recently had to deal with complicated budget issues, Peterson said she understands the predicament the City is in. “I respect why they don’t want to spend money on that this year,” she said. However, Peterson asserted that the extension of Kenrick Avenue would be a positive for the community. She said it would help relieve traffic on 185th Street West and County Road 50, in addition to providing a more streamlined thoroughfare between shopping centers. “I wish that maybe it had been on the table earlier,” she said.
Wetlands Only about a third of the 35-acre property is developable, said Dave Olson, Lakeville’s Community and Economic Development Director. Though a total wetland delineation still remains to be completed, Olson said wetlands comprise most of the land. The property has the potential to host five or six, oneto-two-and-a-half-acre sites, Olson said. The reasons for the extension are different for everyone,
but Olson said one benefit for connecting Kenrick Avenue is to create a complete frontage road. Currently, he said, the proposed extension area is “the only missing link between McStop (the McDonald’s truck stop on County Road 70) and County Road 46.” Another issue is traffic. People traveling between shopping centers are using county roads and a freeway for short trips, a type of travel for which they are not intended, Olson said. But without Fortune’s cooperation, the City will not pursue the extension. “We would certainly not condemn a right-of-way,” Olson said. There has to be cooperation between the city and the property owners, he added, citing the County Road 50 redevelopment work near the Argonne shopping center in which the property owners donated a right-of way and helped pay for the project. City staff are entitled to do as the City Council recommends, so while the project is currently on the CIP for 2011 that could change quite soon. Budget discussions are ongoing. So for now, as Mielke said in a recent interview, “All we have is a line on the map.” E-mail Aaron Vehling at email@example.com.
Business expansion is cause for optimism, Mayor Kautz declares by John Gessner DAKOTA COUNTY TRIBUNE
Business has expanded impressively in Burnsville despite a weak national economy, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz declared in her annual State of the City address. From her vantage point as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Burnsville – which attracted at least 40 new businesses in 2010 – is outperforming the rest of the nation, said Kautz, who ascended to the presidency last year. “We are doing so much better than other cities across our nation,” said the six-term mayor, who gave her 16th State of the City address Feb. 15 at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center. “We were – and still are to a degree – gripped by the worst recession since the 1930s,” Kautz told an audience that included other elected officials and members of the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event. “Businesses have been rocked by fewer customers, shrinking revenues, steeper overheads, tighter credits and an uncertain future,” she said. “City Hall has shed 20 fulltime employees, pared back
expected spending by three and a half million dollars over two years, and learned to do with less.” Business activity in 2010 gives reason for optimism, she said, noting that: • Two of the new businesses – a Costco retail warehouse and a relocated Lifetouch, a leading supplier of school and event photography – brought 350 jobs. • Nine new restaurants opened last year in Burnsville. • The Burnsville Medical Alliance helped attract three new medical businesses and supported expansion of five existing businesses – including Apothecary Products, which added 60,000 square feet. • Goodrich Integrated Senors and Systems launched a major expansion last year that will add 200 to 300 new engineering jobs in the next few years. • The City Council passed a new off-sale liquor ordinance, resulting in four new stores with a fifth under construction. • The city landed a $250,000 Dakota County grant to spur redevelopment of the aging Valley Ridge Shopping Center and expects $800,000 more from the Metropolitan Coun-
cil. “These are just highlights of a very positive new growth trend for Burnsville,” Kautz said.
Roads, water Kautz said Burnsville spent more on road improvements in 2010 than in any other year, and spent $21 million over the last three years, also a city record. Burnsville Parkway’s 2010 reconstruction was a burden for many businesses, Kautz said. “I know, because I heard from nearly every one of them,” she added. “But I think they would agree that it was worth it.” Projects totaling $9.6 million are planned for 2011, she said, and the $40 million construction of an interchange at County Road 5 and Highway 13 will begin in 2012. “It will better serve residents and businesses, and eventually facilitate development of the Minnesota River Quadrant in northwest Burnsville,” Kautz said of the project, which has a number of funding sources. In other speech highlights, the mayor said: • Serious crime in Burnsville was down 8 percent last year, and “less-serious” crimes were
Photo by Rick Orndorf
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz gave an upbeat State of the City address Feb. 16, calling business expansions in 2010 as cause for optimism. The president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors said Burnsville is outperforming the nation’s cities economically. down 12 percent. The Police Department was the first in the state to use officer head-cams that record everything the officer sees during an incident. • The Performing Arts Center made “excellent progress” in 2010, its second year of operation. Ticket sales were up 35 percent, gross ticket revenue was up 46 percent and total event attendance was up 61 percent. • Because of Burnsville’s ef-
forts to clean up and protect water resources, Earley Lake is scheduled to be removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of impaired waters. “Having a lake removed from the list is a rare event and speaks directly to the effective management practices we have adopted,” Kautz said. • The Burnsville Ice Center’s geothermal ice-making system, installed last year as part of an
arena overhaul, will save an estimated $77,000 in annual energy costs. A new energy-efficient roof at City Hall, along with energy-management software and replacement of older lighting systems, reduced electrical consumption by 6 percent in 2010 and natural gas consumption by 2010. John Gessner is at burnsville. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on Feb 24, 2011
Published on Feb 24, 2011
2-24-11 - Dakota County Tribune Business Weekly: A weekly business news, information and communication paper serving the southern Twin Citie...