At some point in 2019, the citizens of New Brighton will likely see the first visible outcome of the City’s new Comprehensive Plan when the former New Brighton Elementary school and surrounding lands are redeveloped into the initial components of a mixed use neighborhood. The anticipated townhomes, affordable senior units, and affordable workforce housing will immediately address a number of community goals, and Citizens have already reached out seeking to be on a waiting list for units.
At the present time, no definitive plans are in place and there is no formal application up for consideration; however, the developers did share an initial site plan with surrounding landowners in late October, and feedback from that meeting was used to guide improvements to the conceptual development. The biggest concerns, comments, and questions from neighbors focused on the density of the plan, whether the uses were appropriate, safety concerns (both traffic & pedestrian), the location of public open space, access to the site, and the relation of tall townhomes to nearby single family homes. City representatives heard these concerns and directed the developers to revisit their concept following the meeting. Simultaneously, the City worked to acquire additional property in the area to contribute to desired solutions. The end result of these efforts is a new plan for development anticipated to come forward sometime in early 2019. Important site characteristics that will benefit the community include:
- A four-way intersection at Old Highway 8 and 8th Avenue NW. Soon to be acquired land south of Old Highway 8 will allow 8th Avenue NW to continue south of the highway to the east of existing businesses. This will allow the intersection to be redesigned for inclusion of a stoplight or large roundabout which in turn will regulate northbound traffic and make access to 8th Avenue NW easier following development. Importantly, this change will also allow for safer ingress & egress to & from businesses along Old Highway 8, and for a more efficient use of land in the southern portion of this development. Staff and the City Council had contemplated buying additional land to accommodate improvements to address traffic and pedestrian concerns, and public input helped solidify this course of action.
- Park Location and Townhome Locations Updated. The City requested the developers shift all parkland to be along 8th Avenue, and orient the new townhomes towards Old Highway 8 and the proposed senior housing. This change coupled with potential berming and plantings should significantly improve the transition between this development and directly fronting homes to the west.
- Pedestrian safety and traffic. Along with the traffic control at 8th Avenue and Old Highway 8, additional improvements along 8th Avenue can also be incorporated to improve pedestrian safety and slow down traffic. Options may include curb bump outs at intersections to slow traffic and reduce crossing distances, raised intersections which force vehicles to slow down upon approach, or possibly mini roundabouts at intersections to both slow traffic and minimize crossing distances.
With regards to overall density and land use, these items did not change as both will be compliant with the new City’s comprehensive plan that was recently approved following a nearly two-year effort. “Housing” was ranked in 2017 as the second most critical issue to residents (second only to safe drinking water), and feedback gathered during two community workshops, a series of on-line surveys, various pop-up events throughout the City, and multiple Commission and Council meetings identified this land as an ideal location for what is proposed.
In January, the City will hold a public hearing to rezone this land to R-3B in compliance with the new comprehensive plan, which will allow the development proposal to come forward as a Planned Residential Development (PRD). While concerned members of the public are certainly welcome to speak at this hearing, this zoning change is a legal formality so this will not be an effective opportunity to speak about the proposed development. Instead, we anticipate the formal development application for the site will be received in early 2019. If you would like to be notified once a formal application is submitted, you may request to be included on our New Brighton Interchange email distribution list. Please send your request to Ben Gozola (email@example.com) to receive future mailings.
New Brighton Elementary School was originally built in 1939, and was owned and operated by the Mounds View School District for approximately 39 years before being closed in the late 1970’s. The building was then used by the School District as a Community Resource Center for another five years before being sold to the Korean United Methodist Church around 1983. The Church operated on the site until 2017 until they decided to move to a newer facility. Given that the City had identified this area for redevelopment dating back to the 1980’s, the City chose to make an offer on the land and was one of four bidders on the private market. The Church selected the City’s bid amongst the four offers, and the property was officially acquired by the City in August of 2017. As to why the City wanted to be involved in this area, the success north of I-694 in the New Brighton Exchange is a recent example of how proactive efforts by the City to acquire, clean up, and revitalize an area can result in a major transformation that benefits all taxpayers in the community. To date, the overall land value within the Exchange has increased over 300% since the project began ($27M to $108.5M) which will result in nearly $2M going to the tax rolls in future years benefiting the City, State, and local school district. The City believes that participating in the residential redevelopment of the land surrounding the old New Brighton Elementary will result in a similar success.
Given its proximity to existing residential uses, the land being developed has largely been viewed over the years as a logical place to address Community housing needs. In 2017, the annual Citizens Survey ranked housing as the second most critical issue to residents (second only to safe drinking water), and feedback gathered over the past year and a half for the Comprehensive Plan further established housing as a main goal for the City. Two community workshops, a series of on-line surveys, various pop-up events throughout the City, and multiple Commission and Council meetings resulted in the final draft of the new Comprehensive Plan that is currently headed to the Metropolitan Council for final approval. The new plan, which will guide the Community’s development for the next ten years, calls for a diverse and well-maintained housing stock to support people of all socio-economic, age, ethnic, race, and religious backgrounds. To this end, the “Old Highway 8 Interchange” (the name given to the redevelopment area around the school and south to 5th Street) was identified by the Community as one of three areas in the City appropriate for a “Mixed Use Neighborhood.” This new land use classification is meant to accommodate medium to high density housing ranging from 8 to 40 units per acre with stacked housing and townhomes predominantly being used. The shape, form, and character of the new housing is intended to transition into the surrounding neighborhoods, so please know that will be an area of focus with the developers and neighbors once a formal application comes forward.
While the new comprehensive plan is the primary reason that a mix of townhomes and multi-family housing is being proposed, a second (but equally important) factor driving these land uses is the economics of redevelopment in the metro. Land this close to Minneapolis and St. Paul, especially within a quality City like New Brighton, is expensive. The parcels within the Old Highway 8 Interchange slated to be used for this project have a total market value of approximately $4.1M according to Ramsey County. Development of single family homes is economically unfeasible as demonstrated by the response to RFPs received by the City at the beginning of this process. Of the nine development proposals received by the City, only one developer proposed all single family homes, and that was only an option for them if the land was free and the City was able to provide additional avenues of financial assistance.
Past uses on the site(s) including the school and community center have always generated traffic to/from this area, and any future use will do so as well (a church that also placed a bid on the land was considering hosting festivals for its 3000 members!). Regarding the site design, placing Senior Housing to the north of Highway 8 will reduce trips to and from this area as opposed to other housing options. Data shows that seniors typically generate less trips per day when compared to other age groups.
Currently Old Highway 8 carries 10,000 vehicles per day, and half of those use 8th Avenue for access to local neighborhoods and/or the freeway. In 2019-2023 MnDOT will initiate the I-35W MNPASS project that will add a new lane in each direction to I-35W from County Road C in Roseville to Sunset Avenue in Lino Lakes. During construction it is anticipated that drivers will use local roadways to avoid freeway delays. To address construction traffic looking for alternate routes, MnDOT has worked with the City to construct temporary traffic mitigation strategies. Temporary improvements will include a traffic signal at 7th St and 8th Avenue, dual left turn lanes from 8th Avenue to 10th Street, and restricted left turns from 8th Avenue to Old Highway 8. The City will use MnDOT traffic data, combined with anticipated development traffic to seek permanent improvements in the corridor. Solutions being considered to address both current and future traffic levels include:
- Having a controlled intersection at Old Hwy 8 & 8th Avenue, in conjunction with the existing controlled intersection at 10th Street, will allow traffic engineers to ensure there are gaps in traffic along 8th Avenue to allow for easier and safer ingress/egress.
- Further improvements to 8th Avenue could include curb bump outs at intersections (to slow traffic and reduce crossing distances), raised intersections (which force vehicles to slow down upon approach), or possibly mini roundabouts (to both slow traffic and minimize crossing distances). Such changes will directly address the safety and access concerns of the neighborhood.