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'Urban Village' visualized

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'Urban Village' visualized
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

A shopping mall? A theater? What about a nice café or restaurant?

Could Woodbury possibly get something that mirrors a river walk in San Antonio, Texas?

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A chunk of Woodbury's south side may be in store for a bit of everything, depending on what's feasible and most desirable.

At a May 2 Planning Commission workshop, commissioners and consultants brainstormed a few options for the "L" shaped area located south of Bailey Road and west of Radio Drive near the Bielenberg Sports Center.

Called an "Urban Village," the area has potential for pretty much anything, city staff agreed, including gathering places, shops and places to eat.

Goals and policies for the Urban Village were set through the Comprehensive Plan process. They include commercial, public and residential use, said Eric Searles, associate planner for the city.

He told commissioners that balancing commercial and residential issues, including parking, at the same time utilizing foot traffic coming from Bielenberg without having to drive to the Urban Village, would be feasible.

"It'd be nice to have a place to sit and meet and have coffee," Planning Commission member Kay Hendrikson said, adding, "I like the idea of a village, a community place."

The commercial part of the village would accommodate eight to 10 units per acre, Searles said.

"Where is the demand today, where is the demand in 10 years?" he asked commissioners.

Hendrickson said senior housing is in demand right now and providing a grocery store within walking distance of a senior housing development would be beneficial.

But she added that something that would attract all ages, like a play area for children, surrounded by shops for teens and adults, might be a good idea.

"Then you have kids, adults and seniors and that's my hope," she said.

Planning Commissioners Irfan Ali said with the long winter months in Minnesota, it would be nice to have a place to walk indoors. He added that often he and his family visit the Maplewood Mall during the winter.

"I'm not advocating an indoor mall," he said, but called for some type of indoor facility for families to spend time.

Various ideas were laid out at the meeting including more entertainment opportunities to complement Bielenberg such as an outdoor ice skating rink, a water park or even a community theater.

But road access from and to the Urban Village is going to be crucial, Ali said. Living near Powers Lake, he said there are only so many ways to get to that part of town.

Mark Schulz reminded fellow planning commissioners that East Ridge High School will soon have an arts center with a black box theater, so another theater within a short distance may not be a good idea.

But he did suggest something like the popular San Antonio River Walk with shops, cafés and restaurants that would bring many outsiders as well as locals to that part of town.

The design and aesthetics of the project would not be finalized until plans are more concrete, said Bryan Harjes of HKGI, a consultant working with city staff.

At that point, any sort of infrastructure planning would be laid out for approval by the commission then the City Council.

The planning department is also considering carrying out the city's green initiative with energy efficient buildings, solar energy, rooftop gardening or wind turbines, Harjes said.

But for now, consultants and city staff wanted to get a feel for what the planning commission is hoping the Urban Village would look like in a few years.

Jim Edberg said on the south side of the city, any type of retail would be beneficial.

He added that Cottage Grove residents would also be visiting Woodbury more often, though Woodbury is not building for the neighboring city, but it would be an added advantage if they came across the border frequently.

"I'm really hoping for something that's not just another shopping mall," Hendrickson said.

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Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.
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