Monday, January 28, 2008

Excelsior Facing Future-Shaping Decisions (Editorial)

The City of Excelsior is considering two proposals for prominent developments in its downtown. One is for the development of the Port of Excelsior into a Pavillion resembling what once stood there, and the other is for the redevelopment of the Pizza Hut building which is being rumored as a proposed boutique hotel.

Excelsior has a long reputation as a place where development and redevelopment of property can be a hassle-laden process. Relatively strict guidelines for things like building heights and a vocal base of residents who deeply value the history and character of the city create an approval process which requires patience. Over the years, some developers have walked away from the commissions or Council feeling personal design preference was too often injected into the debate.

With both of these projects, however, the developers are asking for alot. In the case of the Pavillion, there would be the loss of lakefront views and the selling of prime lakefront property that is currently open space. With the proposed hotel, although details are sketchy, we are hearing there would be a significant height variance requested (as much as 20 feet). The new Council, while showing signs of being redevelopment friendly, is faced with proposals that are anything but routine or incremental.

If one or both of these proposals are ultimately denied by Excelsior's Council, nobody can accuse them of being anti-development based on these projects alone. The developers are asking for much more than a nominal setback variance or a slightly unusual building facade. They are asking for the City to grant them the authority to make major changes that would redefine the city for generations, using major exceptions to agreed-upon development codes which have been guiding development up until now. While we are not advocating for or against either project at this time, we believe Excelsior's Council is well-served to tread carefully and gather all the input before moving ahead.


  1. Thats a tough editorial stand you took. I bet the council never considered that it should "tread carefully and gather all the input before moving ahead."

  2. I don't beleive the developers are asking to buy the lakeshore land, or have the title of the land transferred to them. They are putting forth a concept and asking residents and various commissions what they think, and acknowledging that significant variances would be needed.

  3. I have heard mixed things about the plan. It sounds like financing for the building wouldn't be available unless the developer had some sort of ownership of the parcel, but it sounds like it wouldn't have to be full ownership. The city could retain ownership of the public space around it, evidently, but don't quote me!

  4. You are right. Today's Strib was the first I've seen of this potentially being a long-term lease, not an outright land transfer.

    I also saw mention of a stormwater retention pond that would need to go next to it in the Commons. That was a bit concerning. Does anyone have details?

  5. Who cares if the land if bought or leased? The net effect is blocking residents access and lovely view to our downtown. Taking anything away from the Commons is a bad idea.

    On the other hand, the old "Pizza Hut" property can and should be redeveloped. Whether it is a hotel, restaurant or whatever, the view would be an attraction. I would guess the property would be highly sought after irregardless of the need to stop any development on the city's Commons.

  6. I hear that there does NOT have to be a stormwater retention pond situated in the Commons to serve the building. Reason is, there is existing stormwater conveyance system underneath Lake Street adjacent to the proposed location already, and the roof runoff could be directed to run off and discharge directly to the existing system. Of course, all stormwater from all over the City gets discharged directly into Lake Minnetonka now anyway, without any treatment or settling. But to your question, the Port Development would not have to have its own separate pond located in the Commons.