At Home Apartments’ plan for a new 79-unit apartment building on the south side of Mendota Plaza was approved on February 2 by the Mendota Heights City Council.
Following an hours-long discussion and the testimony of a dozen residents opposed to the plan, Mayor Stephanie Levine and council members Joel Paper and John Mazzitello voted in favor of the development, Jay Miller voted against it, and Ultan Duggan was absent.
The new building is the third and final phase of a housing development by At Home in Mendota Plaza, which is located just southeast of the intersection of Highway 62 and Dodd Road. The development includes the 139-unit Reserve that opened in 2018 and a 58-unit building approved by the City Council in November.
Building is slightly smaller, shorter
The latest project is slightly smaller than the 89-unit building At Home had presented to the City Council last November. The developer agreed to modify the four-story building following conversations with a City Council work group chaired by Mazzitello and Duggan.
In addition to reducing the number of units, At Home agreed to reduce the height of the building, incorporate more open space around the building and shift the building to the east to allow for a larger, 25-foot setback from a private driveway.
At a December meeting, Mendota Heights residents had asked for a height of three stories and no more than 60 apartments. At Home indicated that would not be feasible. Instead, the developer will step back portions of the fourth floor to reduce the building’s mass.
With fewer units, the average size of the apartments will increase. The smallest units will average 737 square feet, and the largest will average 1,179 square feet.
Among those who opposed the plan was Planning Commission vice chair Sally Lorberbaum, who asked the council to return the revised plan to the commission or deny it altogether, stating that it was “not quite right.”
Traffic concerns will be addressed by city committee
Others opposed to the plan were concerned about increased traffic on Dodd Road, where backups are frequent during rush hour and left turns onto Highway 62 can mean long waits for motorists. “It’s going to clog up Mendota Heights,” one speaker said of the apartment project.
Traffic congestion was a frequent complaint in the discussions leading up to the February 2 vote as was the approval of the 58-unit building in November. However, since the state of Minnesota owns and manages Highway 62, Mendota Heights officials do not have the authority to make any changes at the intersection with Dodd Road that would mitigate traffic. The city recently formed a committee to collaborate with state and Dakota County officials on a possible solution to the traffic problems. In any case, Levine said, traffic congestion at the intersection has been a long-standing problem and it is not one that the developers should have to solve.
Leanna Stefaniak, At Home’s president of real estate and a Mendota Heights resident, described the new housing as “smart planning.” The apartments will be marketed to young professionals, she said, a population that is not prevalent in Mendota Heights, which has a median age of 51.2 years.
Howard Paster of Paster Properties, which owns and manages Mendota Plaza, said that with the construction of the 58- and 79-unit buildings, the city has a chance to “realize a vision” for downtown Mendota Heights. “We have the ability to showcase what Mendota Heights is and what we can become in the future,” he said.
— Casey Ek
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