Progress possible for commercial projectThe start of a new season brings renewed hopes of progress at Farmington’s Vermillion River Crossings development.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
The start of a new season brings renewed hopes of progress at Farmington’s Vermillion River Crossings development.
With a deal close to finished for a senior housing development and another that North Central Commercial Real Estate’s Russ McGinty calls “pretty promising” for a strip mall and a freestanding commercial building there is a chance for progress this year on the long-dormant commercial project.
McGinty said he had a meeting Friday with the developer of the two commercial buildings, which he said would house “a couple different uses.” The developer was going to talk to his financial people, McGinty said.
If the project goes forward construction could start as soon as summer. The buildings would be located along Highway 50.
McGinty hoped to have a purchase agreement signed this week for the senior housing development. There were still some contingencies to work out late last week, but he was confident the project, which will be located on the southern part of the property, will go ahead.
Representatives of the Dakota County Community Development Agency, which has proposed the senior housing, are also optimistic about the project, which would include a 60-unit building for affordable, independent senior living on 2.44 acres at the corner of Spruce Street and Denmark Avenue.
The CDA currently has 21 other senior housing projects in Dakota County, but this would be its first in Farmington. The CDA has its 22nd senior housing project under construction in Lakeville and construction on a 23rd will begin this summer in Apple Valley.
That puts the Farmington project pretty far out on the horizon, assuming it moves forward. The CDA still has to finalize its purchase agreement. Then there’s the matter of putting together blueprints for the project and getting city council approval. Constriction on the project likely wouldn’t start until 2011.
McGinty is also working with a group that would put up apartments on the property and a “larger retail user” that he could not identify.
This is a challenging time to be in the retail development business. Most retailers are reluctant to expand and banks aren’t giving out many loans.
“There are some categories of retailers that are still doing things, but it’s a lot slower than I’d like it to be,” McGinty said.
That’s been the case for much of the project’s existence. Vermillion River Crossings was imagined as the first step in a westward expansion of downtown Farmington. The design mixed traditional downtown-style streets with mall-style parking and shopping opportunities. But disputes between the landowner and the developer and a slowing economy, among other things, have delayed the project several years. Talk of big-box shops and hotels has fallen by the wayside leaving a McDonald’s and a medical clinic as the only evidence of efforts to develop the property.
The development has been mocked by some because of a bridge the city built to cross the Vermillion River and lead into the site. That road has come to be known as the Road to Nowhere.
Still, McGinty is confident there will soon be something to show for the work that has gone into the project.
“I think overall I’m optimistic,” McGinty said. “That site has been getting more activity than I think other sites around the Twin Cities have been, so I’m happy about that. “My hope is there’s enough stuff going on here by next summer we can get the road done.”
Vermillion River Crossings isn’t the only commercial development looking for tenants in Farmington. Tammy Medina, leasing agent for the development located behind the CVS Pharmacy at Pilot Knob Road and 195th street, said there are some good prospects for that project as well. She’s had interest from a few businesses, though she wasn’t able to identify them.
“We’re starting to get a lot more calls,” she said.