Elk River plans parking lot with amenities where two buildings stood

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

The open space created when the city demolished two buildings in downtown Elk River will be turned into a parking lot with amenities.

Two downtown buildings owned by the Elk River Housing and Redevelopment Authority were demolished by the city in January. Now a parking lot with amenities will be put in the vacant space.

In an unusual split vote March 5, the Elk River Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) chose Landform to come up with concept plans for the space, located at 716 and 720 Main St.

The other candidate was Hoisington Koegler Group, which designed downtown’s River’s Edge Commons Park.

Initial proposals were $3,300 by Landform and $6,500 by Hoisington Koegler, although Hoisington Koegler was willing to work with the city to reduce the cost. The HRA was not required to go with the low quote.

During a discussion of which firm to hire, HRA Member Paul Motin said he leaned toward Landform, and not just because of the price.

“Landform also is a good company,” Motin said. “They’ve dealt with a lot of things … This may be a way of being able to see some of their expertise at kind of a nominal risk for us.”

HRA Chair Stewart Wilson said it’s logical to consider Hoisington Koegler for the job, to carry on the consistency with River’s Edge Commons Park. He was, however, concerned about the difference in pricing between the two proposals.

HRA Commissioner Larry Toth said he was sure Landform could design something to coordinate with the park across the street as well as Hoisington Koegler could.

In the end the HRA voted 3-2 to have Landform do the concept work for the parking lot space. Voting to choose Landform were HRA members Motin, Toth and Jean Lieser. Wilson and HRA Member Louise Kuester favored Hoisington Koegler.

“Thank you commissioners. We don’t often disagree,” Wilson said, smiling at his fellow HRA members. “That’s fine.”


HRA envisions mainly a parking lot at site

The site where the parking lot with amenities will be built is now open space that was created when two buildings owned by the HRA were demolished in January.

HRA members reiterated at their work session that the space will primarily be a parking lot, not a park.

“We’re talking a parking lot with some public space,” Motin said.

Wilson also sees it as principally for parking with some amenities along Main Street rather than asphalt right up to the sidewalk.

“I certainly don’t want to spend an extraordinary amount of money on it,” Wilson added.

Elk River Director of Economic Development Annie Deckert said in discussions with downtown business owners, recurring ideas for amenities include planters, benches, outdoor dining tables and landscaping.

Landform will come up with three design concepts for the space and is scheduled to present them to the HRA on April 2. The HRA would then approve a concept. To move the project along in a timely fashion, the HRA may have a special meeting to approve a contract with the project contractor so work can begin.

The goal is to have the project completed no later than June 28, according to Deckert. That’s the opening day for the Farmers Market, which will be held at the new downtown parking lot this summer. The Farmers Market previously was held in the parking lot of Westbound Liquor.

Meanwhile, in an unusual twist, the representatives of Hoisington Koegler and Landform who made proposals to the HRA are both Elk River residents.

Paul Paige, a landscape architect with Hoisington Koegler in Minneapolis, at one time served on the Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission.

Kendra Lindahl leads the Planning and Infrastructure Studio at Landform in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a zoning assistant for the city of Elk River.

“We cut our price because we’re interested in working in Elk River,” Lindahl told the HRA early in the meeting. “This is my town, a place where I spend time and we’re excited about the chance to work with you.”