Historic Falcon Heights building headed toward housing


Work is underway to redevelop the large building on the southwest corner of Snelling and Larpenteur avenues in Falcon Heights into a mixed-use development, with more than 100 affordable apartments. (Mike Munzenrider)

Falcon Heights is clearing the way for a large historic building at the corner of Snelling and Larpenteur avenues to be redeveloped into housing.

The former home of Technology and Information Educational Services, or TIES, at 1667 Snelling Ave., was sold to developer Buhl GTA, LP, in April. 

The large building, which dates to the mid-1940s, is on 3.75 acres and historically was used as office space.

Buhl has submitted plans to the city to convert the building into a mixed-use property made up of 106 affordable apartments throughout the three-story main building and its garage/conference center annex, with 2,200 square feet of retail space on the first floor of that secondary building.

In all, Buhl is looking to put some $45 million into the redevelopment. 

Per city documents, such a use of the building is in line with Falcon Heights’ 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which calls for redevelopment of the corner that matches the urban and transit-oriented character of the other three corners at the busy intersection.

So far, the city is doing what it can to make Buhl’s plans a reality. 

On May 22, the Falcon Heights City Council voted to approve $40 million of conduit bonding for the project. 

As noted by city Community Development Coordinator Justin Markon, the city is acting only as a “financial liaison” with regards to the project and the bonds would not count against the city’s bonding limit.

Some 20 residents spoke at the May 28 Planning Commission meeting during which the commission discussed rezoning the property to a planned unit development. Many residents who spoke focused on parking concerns and making sure the apartments would have enough parking to avoid cars spilling onto surrounding side streets.

The commission voted to recommend the council rezone the property, given that Buhl develops a security plan and considers not putting additional parking on the east side of the building.

The city council on June 12 voted unanimously to approve the rezoning, based on a plan that included security cameras, though left open some questions about parking.

Markon said in the coming months Buhl and the city will be hammering out an encroachment agreement, since current plans show parking for the project abutting Snelling Drive and getting into city right-of-way. He said the city needs to maintain access to underground utilities there, but would likely make the developer responsible for snow removal.

Buhl will also be working with the U.S. Department of Interior and the State Historic Preservation Office, Markon said, on the site’s historic designation.

“We are excited to see this corner of Snelling and Larpenteur be put to productive use while maintaining the historic building,” Markon said. “The project is also slated to be workforce housing, geared toward families who make 60% of area median income, a much needed slice of housing in the Twin Cities.”

The redevelopment would also be beneficial to Falcon Heights city coffers. As a state-mandated education organization, TIES paid no property taxes. 

Buhl, per city documents, estimates redeveloping the site will generate some $170,000 annually in taxes.

 

—Mike Munzenrider

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