Though they expressed some concerns at a Monday meeting, St. Louis Park City Council members seem generally supportive of a plan to turn the vacant Eliot School building into a 144-unit apartment complex.
The council was getting its first look at the plan, which calls for the demolition of the roughly 100-year-old building at the corner of Cedar Lake Road and Hampshire Avenue that has been vacant since February 2010.
In May, the St. Louis Park School Board to Minneapolis condo developer Dan Hunt for about $2 million. It was the second purchase agreement reached on the property, as a previous deal fell through.
Now, council must decide whether to approve rezoning—because the site had been a school—as well as various construction permits. At Monday's work session, several council members said they were worried about traffic and density increasing in an area not used to having an apartment complex.
Some residents expressed similar concerns at a July 18 neighborhood meeting. A petition opposing the project was also signed by 65 nearby residents and delivered to city staff.
Hunt said he's aware of the concerns and wants to make this project fit the area.
“Traffic was a big concern (at the July 18 meeting), and it’s a big concern of ours,” he said.
At the same meeting, some residents praised the fact that the development won't overshadow nearby homes too much—it's planned as a three-story building, set relatively far back from the road and other properties.
Additionally, two single-family lots are included as part of the plan, which residents and council liked.
Echoing other council members, councilwoman Julia Ross said she'll want to see careful attention paid to traffic issues going forward, but she's generally OK with the apartment plan.
"I do support this design," she said. "I do support this project.”
Up next, the plan will be presented to the city's Housing Authority Board on Aug. 8 before coming back before the council.
Demolition could begin as early as next spring, with construction to follow soon after. Demolition is estimated to cost around $500,000 for Hunt, with asbestos removal at the old building part of the process.