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Twin Cities Orthopedics looks to build clinic at Bielenberg Gardens

The addition of a clinic at Bielenberg Gardens has some Woodbury officials are doubling back on the project's original plan from 2011.

Bloomington-based DRF Holdings, LLC plans to build a 50,000-square-foot medical office for Twin Cities Orthopedics at Bielenberg Gardens. The Woodbury City Council approved the plan at its Aug. 10 meeting, but some city officials voiced concerns that the inclusion of a medical office deviates from the the site's original plan.

Twin Cities Orthopedic has 38 other facilities in the Twin Cities metro, including a location on the Woodwinds Health Campus.

The proposed clinic at Bielenberg Gardens will have about 40 employees at first. The building will be located on the southwest corner of Bailey Road and Radio Drive and will provide service such as physical therapy, hand therapy and other general clinic services from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Located across from Bielenberg Sports Center and anchored by Jerry's Foods, the city envisioned the site would be an urban-themed design equipped with walkable paths and connecting trails, as well as plans to have retail, restaurants and a pharmacy within that development space.

Gina Gore, a community development technician for the city, said at an Aug. 1 Planning Commission meeting that when the city conducted a study on the area six years ago, it did not identify a medical office as having a strong marketability.

"The city has since seen a shift in this marketability over the years with medical users seeking locations near retail vs. hospitals," Gore said.

She added that the city has noticed retail traffic has been slow to pick up because of less daytime travel, especially during lunchtime.

Woodbury Senior Planner Eric Searles said a medical office might draw other retail tenants to the area. He added that retail development at Bielenberg Gardens has been slower than expected.

Planning Commission Chairman Al Rudnickas responded cautiously to the plan, mainly touching on concerns about straying from the site's original plan, which involved gathering input from nearby residents and almost two dozen public discussions before the development plan was approved.

"When we have conversations with the community and start talking about variances from what our commitments are, we need to be very thoughtful of that because it costs you credibility," Rudnickas said. "If it needs to change to salvage the original concept because it's not working, then so be it, but it's different from what was promised."

Planning Commissioner Jerad Ducklow, said the inclusion of an office space would have likely been added to the plan had city officials and staff foreseen the upside of locating an office next to retail spaces.

"If we had do it over again ... and we had to incorporate something like this, then we probably would have," Ducklow said.

Planning Commissioner Irfan Ali said he recalls there being a lot of different discussions when the study about the sight was done. But at the time, there didn't seems to be much anticipation for office use, he said.

"You don't know what you don't know, so you learn once you've experimented and gone through a process," Ali said. "You learn and you grow."

Searles said the plot designated for a pharmacy might also need to be re-explored because pharmacies, namely CVS and Walgreens—two of the largest pharmacies in Minnesota—haven't been building as aggressively in recent years. Instead, he said, the sight could be suitable for a sit-down restaurant.

Deviating slightly from the Bielenberg Gardens' current plan might attract restaurants to the area, said City Council Member Christopher Burns at the meeting.

Noting comments he's heard from hockey and baseball families about lack of food options near the sports complex, he said building a clinic might help attract restaurants.

"Other than Jimmy John's we really have no food options," Burns said.

The proposed clinic would also include large windows, which planning commissioners said the city should study to see what effect the windows might have on glare from headlights.

Burns pointed to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which has recently produced some issues with glare from drivers' headlights.

He said addressing potential glare from the clinic's windows would be better addressed sooner than later.