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Council Gets First Look at Eliot Building Plans

The old school is slated to become an apartment complex.

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.

Robert Larsen July 24, 2012 at 12:35 PM
The only reason for me to be against it, is nostalgia. I attended Eliot K-6, so it has many memories for me. My mother went to school there, too.
Joe July 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Robert, I can understand your nostalgia, but as it stands, the building is a shell of what it once was. It has been plagued with vandalism since it was vacated. Simply, it isn't the Eliot that you remember. At least with apartments, the city will be increasing its tax base, which will help with the tight budgets it has been struggling with for several years.
Michael Rose (Editor) July 24, 2012 at 02:37 PM
On the vandalism front, this is from last summer: http://patch.com/A-jg6J
Judy Chucker July 24, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I attended Eliot, too, and it breaks my heart to know of its impending doom. I don't know all of the circumstances surrounding its abandonment as a school (population decline, I presume, is one major factor). However, if money could be spent to refurbish it as a school, I'm guessing that would make everyone happy--at least among those of us who care about what's there rather than those who strictly see dollar signs. I realize that that's a pipe dream.
Peter Kapinos July 24, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I live in Eliot View neighborhood; moved here 2.5 years ago. There have been quite a few businesses tenants leaving the Louisiana/CLR intersection. I hope that with this project and a possible influx of new residential tenants, the need for hyperlocal services will increase. It is a vacant structure with no access and no legal use right now. Even if it were demolished, it would be a boon to the area as green space. Economy dictates that use would be better than non-use even if the use means taking down a decaying structure and laying sod. I hope the owning firm of the apartments will have high standards of maintenance. The only problem may be traffic in the area but with only 144-units, that is not a lot of traffic. The CLR/LA intersection and downstream LA does need better traffic mgmt from 1500-1800 ever weekday though.
Michael Rose (Editor) July 24, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Judy, my understanding is that the school really wanted the building off its hands, because to refurbish it would cost a lot of money. Because of asbestos and decay, it would almost certainly have to be demolished, and that's a $500,000 price tag alone. Now, they're getting the developer to pay for that, which is a positive for the area. I suppose they could have tried to sell to a private school interested in the space, but I'm assuming Mr. Hunt's offer was the best.
Tom Obinger July 24, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I also attended Elliot and it is sad to see what has happened to the school. I look at the big oak tree in the front of the school which has been there since I attended and I would hope the tree could be spared in any new plans for the property. I remember sitting in class and looking out of the window at that beautiful tree. Please, if we can't spare the school, save the tree as a symbol and remembrance of all the students who attended Elliot. Tom Obinger
Mike July 24, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Unfortunately, and sometimes fortunately, things come and go. I would rather see this space get put to use than see a dilapidated building everytime I pass by. I don't believe the location is appropriate for a business, and frankly, we have enough park land/common space. If not a nice appartment complex, zone it for new homes.
guy davidson July 25, 2012 at 12:33 AM
As an owner of an apt building..familiar with how it works..the council must make sure these are not low rent apts and the owner must have a strong property manager or that neighborhood will be destroyed
Yvonne Thomas July 25, 2012 at 06:57 AM
I also attended Eliot from second through sixth grade, after the 1952 addition and the renovation of the original building. That property is bigger than a square city block. I am not sure an apartment complex is as suitable for it as single-family homes, which is what that neighborhood consists of. Yvonne Thomas

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