After the coronavirus pandemic postponed plans for a construction project in Prior Lake, city staff and involved developers have tentatively rescheduled the first phase of construction for the downtown reconstruction and redevelopment project for 2021.

The construction for the multi-faceted project was originally scheduled to begin this summer.

The project includes:

Relocation and reconstruction of VFW building

The project begins with relocating the current VFW building at the corner of Main Avenue and Pleasant Street just south to a newly constructed building in the municipal parking lot at the northwest corner of the Pleasant and Main intersection.

The new VFW building will be two-stories and feature upgraded amenities and a banquet space on the upper level, explained Nat Shea, principal with Tanek Architects who is managing the VFW portion of the project.

“We’ve been working with the VFW to try and create a new home for them. Obviously, this one is aged and it’s really lived out its life,” Shea said.

The current VFW building dates back to the 1930s and was formerly a movie theatre.

Plans for the new VFW include a large restaurant and bar area on the first floor for gatherings and a banquet hall on the second floor.

While the exact date of construction for the new VFW Hall is still yet to be determined, reconstruction has been slated for 2021.

“Today is a big step forward to try to make things happen and progress,” Shea said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for [the VFW] as they continue to grow and be a vital part of the neighborhood.”

Four-story multi-use building

Contingent upon the VFW’s relocation is the construction of a four-story multi-use building, which will be constructed along Main and Colorado Street. This building, which will consist of apartments and on the first level retail space on Main Avenue, is now tentatively scheduled for construction in 2022.

The multi-use building will feature 114 apartments, 135 bedrooms and house approximately 200 people, explained Ben Beard, Vice President of Beard Group, Inc.

The building will feature a club-quality fitness center, a business center, a rooftop deck, two stories of underground parking and access to a Three Rivers Park District Trail just a block away.

It will be similar to other Beard Group developments like those in Osseo, Hopkins, Victoria and St. Paul.

The expected resident demographics for the apartments are roughly 40% baby boomers, 40% millennials with a mixture of individuals making up the remaining 20%.

“What we find in these communities is that there hasn’t been a housing option like this in over 20 years and so we’re finding a lot of boomers who have a home, they don’t want to deal with the upkeep so they want to go into a style of living that they’re used to with the amenities, luxuries, but it’s just not there,” Beard said.

This portion of the project will cost approximately $28 million, he added.

As of now, the plan is for the VFW to continue operating in its current facility while the new hall is constructed.

Beard estimated that once the VFW broke ground their facility would open around nine months later, while the multi-use building would open about a year and a half after its construction begins.

“It’s just a very exciting project. It’s been very fun to work with the VFW and the city staff,” he said. “I think everyone’s got a vision to make something work that will be a big benefit for the community. We’re all eager to make it a reality.”

City to move fovrward with downtown street reconstruction

Coupled with the Beard Group’s development is the City of Prior Lake’s Downtown South Street Reconstruction Project, which includes full utility replacement and street reconstruction on Colorado Street, Main Avenue and Pleasant Street.

According to the Downtown South Reconstruction website, “This will include replacing water main, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, roadway base, and pavement on Main Avenue between CH21 and Pleasant Street; Colorado Street between Main Avenue and Duluth Avenue; and Pleasant Street between Highway 13 and Duluth Avenue.”

Construction for this portion of the project has also tentatively been rescheduled for 2022.

The sewer and water infrastructure in this area dates back to the 1940s, said Prior Lake Public Works Director and City Engineer Andy Brotzler.

“It’s some of our oldest underground infrastructure. Obviously, over the years we’ve had a significant number of maintenance issues, breaks and repairs, so it’s connected to the proposed redevelopment project but there is a need on its own with or without the development project,” Brotzler said.

As for how this will change the look of Prior Lake on Pleasant and Colorado streets, “basically, what people see there now is what people will see post-project.”

Though due to the proposed redevelopment, residents may see a change in downtown parking as additional on-street, angled parking may be added to replace the lot that will house the new VFW.

The cost associated with the city portion as the final feasibility report won’t be finished until January or February of next year, Brotzler said.

While the ongoing pandemic put the project on hold the additional time has allowed city staff and other project partners to gather more public input. A public open house was held late last month at the VFW to inform citizens of the tentative plans.

“We are really focused on a strong public involvement process whether that’s here in person tonight, socially distanced or through the project webpage and online programs to solicit info and feedback form property owners as well as put updates out to the public on concepts, layouts and design projects,” Brotzler said.

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