Arden Hills panel recommends taller buildings, other TCAAP plan changes


This rendering teases an idea of what the former TCAAP site might look like once redevelopment is complete, however, the tallest buildings in the image may end up a bit taller.

Over the past several weeks, a handful of residents have shown up at Arden Hills City Council meetings to voice opinions and concerns regarding the allotted height of proposed buildings on the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site, a 427-acre development also known as Rice Creek Commons.

While some residents are perturbed that the buildings are going to end up markedly higher than originally planned, the Arden Hills Planning Commission voted Dec. 7 to make a recommendation to the council to approve the developers’ wish for taller buildings, as well as other changes to the development’s master plan. 

The master plan was created in 2015 by the Rice Creek Commons Joint Development Authority Board, which is made up of elected officials from both Ramsey County and the city of Arden Hills. 

Since then, the developer, Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC, has pushed to reduce office space to make room for the downtown-St. Paul-sized development’s two residential neighborhoods, but then to subsequently raise the maximum height of some central buildings from six to 10 stories.

Though buildings that reach that height will be limited in number and restricted to the development’s Town Center, some residents have warned council members that taller buildings will have a negative effect on Aden Hills’ quiet, low-key ambiance.

However, to create financially effective condominiums and other dwelling spaces in the Town Center, Alatus representatives said that 10-story buildings with concrete construction would be necessary. 

Arden Hills’ population is currently just over 9,500, and the development was initially expected to create about 1,400 new homes and bring 4,000 jobs to the suburb. 

The proposed change will now add 29 more units to the previously planned 1,431 units in the Town Center, which interim city planner Eric Zweber said during the meeting was not a significant deviation from what was originally expected.

This recommended change, along with other small alterations to the plan, were looked at by the city council on Dec. 12 and may be further reviewed Dec. 19.

Whether or not these changes are approved, officials from Arden Hills and Ramsey County, which owns the former TCAAP site, are aiming to turn the vacant land into a modern-day model community, with solar-power and a focus on being more environmentally friendly, according to Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman, who also sits on the Joint Development Authority. 

According to the JDA, Alatus has built a number of different types of projects in its decade of existence, including office, apartment and single-family home developments.

Alatus had a hand in creating Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis and Cobblestone Lake, the single-family home development in Apple Valley.

Bob Lux, president of Alatus, has said that his team will focus on building a nature-inspired community containing green spaces, bike paths and trails, along with a “vibrant walkable town center district,” which will include a combination of retail stores and “destination restaurants.”

In its heyday, TCAAP employed 26,000 people and supported the war effort from when it opened in 1941 through the end of World War II in 1945, manufacturing small arms ammunition.

The site was operating again during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and then shut down completely in 2005 and was purchased by Ramsey County in 2013 for $28 million.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

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