Oakdale officials have tried for 15 years to develop the west side of Tanners Lake.
Plans for condos, a hotel, medical offices and different restaurants have all fallen through.
This year, however, things should be different, city officials say.
The Metro Gold Line, a 10-mile bus rapid transit line that will run between St. Paul and Woodbury, is under construction, and Oakdale is poised to capitalize on its success.
The $505 million bus line will feature bus-only lanes that will provide frequent, all-day service in both directions at 21 stations and four park-and-ride facilities. It is slated to open in 2025.
The city owns two parcels of land on the west side of Tanners Lake – a 2.25-acre parcel and a 0.5 acre parcel – that are located in a redevelopment tax-increment financing district, said Andrew Gitzlaff, the city’s community development director.
“We’re feeling pretty bullish,” he said. “We’re definitely drawing more interest because of the Gold Line. It’s not very often that half a billion dollars goes into infrastructure in the east metro – usually a lot of those projects go to the other end of the metro, so I think that’s generating some excitement.”
Sites like the Tanners Lake site, which may have been overlooked in the past, are now more marketable, thanks to the Gold Line, he said. “People want to live closer to transit,” he said.
According to the city’s marketing materials, the city-owned parcels are “shovel ready, across from 3M Global Headquarters, and adjacent to a condo building and hotel.”
Also touted is Tanners Lake itself, which has “gorgeous views and minimal shoreline setbacks,” according to the marketing materials. “Proximity to the lake is definitely an asset,” Gitzlaff said.
The city hopes that any proposed lakeside development would include “some sort of public benefit … since it is a city-owned property and investment,” Gitzlaff said. “How could we get some public access to the lakefront? Maybe that’s a walking path or even a small dock.”
The city owns a park, Tanners Lake Park, on the east side of the lake that features a beach for swimming. The lake has a 10 mph speed limit, he said.
The city is open to any proposals for the site, but Gitzlaff expects that multi-family housing will likely be a part of any plans. “Multi-family continues to be a need on the east side and a potential draw for the site,” he said. “And then maybe a limited amount of commercial retail – maybe not a restaurant, but maybe a coffee shop. It’s hard for developers to find financing for retail right now.”
There is no listed sale price for the land, Gitzlaff said.
The two parcels that make up the site once housed restaurants Toby’s on the Lake and Blackie’s Eatery and Saloon. The city’s Economic Development Authority in 2008 received special legislative approval to form a TIF district to purchase the former Blackie’s Eatery restaurant site on the north side for about $1.5 million and demolish the building. In 2014, the city’s EDA purchased the parcel to the south, the former site of Toby’s on the Lake, for $843,000. The total capital expenditure for both sites was approximately $2.4 million, including demolition, Glitzlaff said.
Despite the uncertainty in the market and rising interest rates, Gitzlaff said he is optimistic that a developer will come forward with a workable plan.
“There is still opportunity out there, and there is still a need,” he said. “I feel like we have a short window here to get something going, so we may as well get after it.”
The Gold Line, he hopes, will be the magic shot the project needs.
“The hope has always been that when you have an investment in there, then investment and development and property will come,” he said. “We’re seeing it already at least in the Oakdale section along our Helmo Station site, and we hope that that momentum carries to the other parts of the city along the line as well.”