Wayzata State of the City

Mayor Ken Willcox speaks during the State of the City address at the Wayzata Country Club, Wednesday, March 9.

City representatives, business owners and residents of Wayzata looked back on a year’s progress and ahead to future goals during a March 9 state of the city presentation.

“I am very pleased to declare again this year that the state of the city is strong, energetic, and by almost any measure it’s heading in directions that almost any city would deeply envy,” said Mayor Ken Willcox.

Willcox spoke on general city developments, including former City Manager Heidi Nelson’s move to Maple Grove. The position is being filled by Interim City Manager Doug Reeder, whose credentials include two decades as the city manager of Brooklyn Park. Wayzata is now in the middle of a recruiting process to find a permanent replacement for Nelson. There were 36 applicants for the position, and a final decision is expected to be made in six to eight weeks.

Willcox called Bushaway Road “Hennepin County’s gift that keeps on giving.” With the coming of spring, the road will be shut down again on and off through the summer. Work will be completed on the Breezy Point Curve, on the Minnetonka side of the stretch, beginning in mid-April, and work on the causeway retaining wall on the Wayzata side will cause about a six-week closure. Work to complete the bridge over the railroad tracks will begin this spring after the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad shifts the trains to the bypass and removes the current tracks. Dates are not fixed, but bridge work will likely continue through the summer. If work remains on schedule, Bushaway should be open to traffic by this September.

The Metropolitan Council’s Shoreline Drive project, scheduled to begin after work on Bushaway is complete, will replace the high-pressure sewer line from Wayzata to Orono.

Parking plans

On the parking front, design work has been undertaken for the Mill Street Ramp adjacent to the Muni. Last year the council approved a three-level ramp, and a small group of citizens and staff have worked with an architect on the design. The bulk of the ramp’s building cost will be paid by tax increment revenue generated by the Presbyterian Homes project. It will be built over the course of this coming winter, and will open in 2017. An open house to review the design is planned for March 16 at Wayzata City Hall.

Wayzata has increased its public safety contract with Long Lake from three years to five, and hired an additional officer to allow double-coverage most of the time, and the Fire Department has replaced three 30-year-old trucks. The upgrades have brought the city a new insurance rating, which should lower homeowner’s insurance for residents.

Lake Effect

Mark Johnson of Civitas spoke on the recently unveiled Lake Effect schematics, and touched on how, in a railroad town, the plan would take safety into account.

“A very important part of this proposal is to improve the safety of crossing the railroad,” said Johnson. “That means improving the signalization and gates at the crossings.”

For a full description of the Lake Effect plans, read “Final concepts presented for lakefront project” at weeklynews.com and visit wayzatalakeeffect.com.

Bill Hagstrom of Presbyterian Homes spoke on the Promenade of Wayzata. The living units in Folkestone Senior Living, which include senior apartments, care center rooms, and assisted living, enhanced assisted living and memory care options, are about 96 percent filled.

The Quayside units, open to residents of any age, are at approximately 82 percent capacity and have been filled mainly through word of mouth. On the development’s Plaza block, 59 luxury condos have sold.

The Landing is scheduled to open over the spring or summer of next year, and will include 31 more luxury condos, over half of which are already sold, as well as a 92-room boutique hotel. The hotel is owned by Bohland Development, and will feature a bridal suite and a Presidential suite, a grand staircase and a Scandinavian-inspired spa.

While living units have sold at a steady pace, leasing of the Promenade’s 110,000 square feet of retail space has been somewhat stagnant.

“A year ago we had about half of the current retail space leased out, and we’re at about half a year later,” said Hagstrom. “So we’re disappointed with how it’s been going, but it’s not from lack of effort.”

Hagstrom cited the widespread construction, into and throughout the city, as an obstacle to attracting national retailers, but also said that plans to fill the space with retail, as opposed to straight office space, are still in play.

Presbyterian Homes is engaging several strategies to remedy the situation, including marketing in the form of a new logo and brochures, development of a website, and increased signage that alerts visitors to on-site parking and the stores available in the space. Other ideas under consideration include Presbyterian Homes possibly partnering with retailers, sharing costs and bringing in management or opening some retail, and Hagstrom mentioned that a boutique live theater has been suggested.

“We’re looking at things that would enhance life for Folkestone (senior living) residents, that will also provide community and foot traffic,” said Hagstrom. “Presbyterian Homes is open to suggestions, so if there is something you would really like to see in Wayzata, let us know.”

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