The Chaska City Council unanimously approved a plan for further development at the Oak Ridge Conference Center property, located north of Hazeltine Boulevard and west of Highway 41.
The concept plan intends to develop 67 acres of land, preserving the existing hotel and conference center while adding a retail site along Highway 41, as well as building a senior living campus and multi-family building. Construction would likely begin in the spring, with groundwork hopefully starting this fall.
The Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center would likely remain the same, with the possibility for renovation. Parking would be restructured.
“Really the whole idea of this development is to kind of rebrand the hotel,” said Mike Brandt with Kimley-Horn and Associates, the site’s developer. “I look at it as the hidden gem of Chaska.”
The proposed retail site is expected to be around 161,000 square feet, located on the east portion of the site. It will likely be a big-box store. Concept plans include a fuel station, and outdoor gathering space, cart corrals, and a retaining wall facing Highway 41.
Developers are confident a business will purchase the retail site, even amid uncertainty with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had feelers out in the market. A couple of big box retailers (are) really interested in the area,” Brandt said.
Chaska City Planner Liz Hanson said the current plan is to start retail construction next year, to be open by 2022.
At the council meeting, City Councilor Jon Grau expressed concern about the big box store, especially considering the nearby conference and retreat center — self-described as a “tranquil lakeside getaway” on its website.
“I don’t know how much you can call a retreat center a retreat center when there’s a big box across the street from it,” Grau said. “I think it loses a little bit of that feel.”
Chaska Mayor Mark Windschitl said within the center, the retail store would likely be less obvious.
“Once you’re inside the building then you have kind of a different fee, I guess,” he said.
Hanson said the three- or four-story apartment building would add up to 150 to 160 units. Developers are hoping to add a usable rooftop space overlooking the natural landscape. Over 100 parking stalls are proposed to be added.
The concept plan labels the building as “semi secluded in the upper portion of the site, away from the highway and retail activities.”
The apartments would likely be market-rate, Hanson said, but can’t guarantee it.
“It seems to be more appropriate for a market-rate apartment but again, that’s kind of up to the developer to figure out what’s the most plausible,” she said.
Councilor Mike Huang noted the challenge of finding affordable housing, especially in Chaska.
“Trying to find that balance of mixed-use and, you know, seeing affordable housing as one of the major components of this is actually a really positive thing,” Huang said.
The senior living complex is proposed to sit on the southern portion of the site to “take advantage of the topographical relief and views this property has to offer,” according to city documents.
The complex would consist of three four-story multi-family style buildings including rentals, cooperative living units, and assisted living.
There would be 135 units for seniors aged 55 and over, a 110-unit senior co-op, and 120 units for assisted living and memory care. Developers say there still needs to be 25 parking stalls added to the complex to meet transportation needs.
As for a timeframe, developers said they’d likely work on one building at a time, starting construction this year and wrapping up in 2021.
United Properties, a Minneapolis real estate developer, is set to be the end user.
A new signaled entryway would be placed off Highway 41 to the northeast corner of the site.
Developers say a “consistent architectural theme” of Chaska brick and warm exterior tones would be used.
“It’s pretty preliminary at this point,” Mayor Windschitl said of the plans, noting his shock at the land’s size.
“I’ve been there many many many times but you don’t realize how much land is there until you put signs like that on there,” he said.
Before construction would begin, developers plan to assess changes needed to underground well systems.
Sidewalks, a tree survey, and a preservation plan are all in the works. No financial estimate was suggested at the City Council meeting.