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Final plans approved for First Street building

A rendering provided to the Hudson Common Council by Monarch Ventures shows what their proposed project at 721 First St. would look like from the front. The final plans for the project were approved at the council meeting on Monday, Feb. 26. Image courtesy of Monarch Ventures

Final development plans, along with zoning and comprehensive plan changes, for the construction of a new mixed-use building on First Street next to Lakefront Park were approved by the Hudson Common Council Monday, Feb. 26 amid concerns from citizens.

The building

FLAZ, LLC, developed by Monarch Ventures, will be located at 721 First St., next to the group's existing 811 First St. building.

The building will house two levels of corporate office space, with a top floor of four condos and a parking garage in the back.

The 7,400 square foot building spans the length of the property, 5 feet from the Lakefront Park property line, and parking lot in the rear of the building. At its midpoint, the height is 44 feet, 7 inches.

Development of the building as presented required a change to the comprehensive plan, and a change to the zoning of 721 and 811 First St. from residential and office to B-4 central business zoning. This B-4 zoning was established in 2017 and designed to be a transition zone from the downtown business to residential area.

A property must be adjacent to a B-3 downtown business district in order to be zoned B-4. Community Development Director Mike Johnson said this means one property becoming B-4 does not mean those next to it will become business zoning as well.

This zoning was not accounted for in the city's 2013 comprehensive plan, Johnson said.

A conditional use permit is required alongside a B-4 zoning. A separate permit for construction along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and within the slope preservation zone was also needed.

All permits and changes were approved by the council 4-2, with council members Joyce Hall and Jim Webber voting no.

Community concern

The size of the project drew criticism from several community members who felt the building was not cohesive to the area.

Dennis Kroll, who developed the multi-use property located across the street at 720 First St., said he was shocked by the scale of the project.

"I had no idea it was as extensive or massive as is shown in the drawings," Kroll said.

He said he did not feel the project fit with the city's comprehensive plan that was established in 2013. Kroll said changing the zoning removed limits that would be in place if the land was zoned for office or residential, instead of B-4 business district.

"I came to expect that there would need to be larger setbacks," he said.

Kroll requested the city place conditions such as a 35-foot height limit and setbacks from the park.

Kathy Metcalf, who owns one of the lofts across the street, said she accepted her views will change and development will occur, but the council needed to consider how the building will look from the street and the park.

"We're asking for some reasonable conditions for scale," Metcalf said.

Buck Malick said he disagreed with the plan commission taking action on the zoning and comprehensive plan before the public hearing at the council meeting. The commission made a recommendation for approval to the council, but the actual approval by the council occured after the public hearings there.

Ryan Cari, an attorney representing Monarch Ventures, said the project has met many different criteria to make it this far in the process. The 720 First St. building, Cari said, is a three-story mixed-use building, like the one Monarch Ventures is proposing.

"We're defending ourselves against folks who live in a building consistent with this project," he said.

A letter, read by Malick, from 720 First St. resident Ginger Alden said the residents make up the main opposition because they were one of the only properties who received notice of the plan, as they are the only ones within 300 feet of the building. Johnson said notice to those within 300 feet is standard process for the city.

Conditional use

City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said the 45 feet height limit is what is set out by the state's National St. Croix Scenic Riverway requirements, which were accepted as city ordinance. She said the city can't make conditions that are inconsistent with its own ordinance.

"It's consistent with the state riverway regulations," Munkittrick said

The conditional use permit required with the B-4 zoning allows for conditions on types and intensity of use, not on scale.

Riverway requirements

To ensure this project fit with the area, and the National St. Croix Scenic Riverway conditions provided by the state and adopted by the city, the city contracted with MSA Professional Services. Monarch Ventures reimbursed the city for the expense.

MSA Senior Project Engineer David Schofield said with the conditional use permit, and a variance for slope, the project meets these conditions including the 45 -oot height requirement and 100-foot setback from the water. The height is measured based on the average height of the building around the structure.

His review found the comprehensive plan and zoning change appropriate. Johnson said though the plan did not account for the B-4 zoning, it does support mixed-use applications of buildings like the proposed one.

Webber said the building will have a significant impact on the trail that runs behind it, as the building will be taller from that side.

Schofield said in addition to meeting the height requirement, it is also adhering to the materials required by the riverway conditions.

"There is some beauty in the eye of the beholder on questions that specific," Schofield said.

Council member John Hoggatt said as a path user, he's more focused on the the river than the building. He said even a lower height would have a similar view.

"Overall I think it's going to turn out to be something nice," he said.

Final plans

Developer Andy Kron said the group is working on alternative plans that it will share.

"We're open to learning and getting feedback from others," he said.

The final development plans passed unanimously.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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