Five-story housing proposal on Country Club land returned to Planning Commission – ECM Publishers

A proposal to redevelop a portion of the Golden Valley Country Club’s driving range into a five-story apartment complex was neither approved nor denied by the Golden Valley City Council Jan. 5. Rather, it was deferred to the city’s Planning Commission for a second review in light of modifications the developer made to the proposal.

Artessa Development, LLC, is seeking to build a 78-unit senior cooperative on 2.3 acres southeast of the Country Club property. The property is next to an office building that formerly housed Optum Health, which is poised to be redeveloped into a new business center with a separate developer.


Initial renderings of Artessa Cooperative dated Dec. 13. The housing complex is proposed for construction on the southeastern corner of the Golden Valley Country Club property.

Previous commission dissent

The council is sending the proposal back to a planning commission that was previously unanimous in its dissent. All six members voted in December to recommend that the City Council deny the project. According to meeting minutes, the commission voted against the proposal due to the size and scale of the building, and over traffic concerns for drivers in the area.

Still, most commissioners spoke favorably of the concept of the senior cooperative, and invited the applicant to make amendments. Chief among their reasons for denial of the entire proposal was a concern that altering the land use to high-density without locking in a specific project would allow future proposals that didn’t tailor to the city’s needs, like senior and affordable housing.

In response to the recommendation for denial, Artessa made significant modifications to its proposal, including scaling back the height of the building from six stories to five, and reducing planned units from 98 to 78. Artessa Development Vice President Ben Landhauser described the changes as “dramatic.” He said the development team heard residents and commissioner feedback “loud and clear” that the “scale and magnitude” of the proposal was a primary issue.

Artessa concluded that the changes would create a daily traffic reduction by nearly 20%, almost a 16% reduction in building square footage, and a hefty stepback in the fourth and fifth floors to reduce visual height. Due to the reduction, the company likened the cooperative to a 4.5-story complex.

In its rationale for the project, Artessa representatives wrote that it believed the reductions satisfied the needs of nearby residents and the country club itself.

“The design of the cooperative building is intended to complement and leverage the unique topography of the site,” the document said. “Floor and unit composition has been deliberately assembled to reduce both the interior and exterior massing of the building. From any vantage point, the building appears much smaller than the overall size and number of homes would suggest.”

Units would range from one bedroom, one bath to two bedrooms, a den, and two baths. The building would require that one owner of every unit be at least 62 years old. Ten units would be considered affordable. Amenities would include underground parking, gathering spaces, an entertainment suite, wellness studio, co-working space and guest suites.

Pricing for a single unit would begin at $313,000.


Initial renderings of Artessa Cooperative dated Dec. 13. The housing complex is proposed for construction on the southeastern corner of the Golden Valley Country Club property.

Expedience denied

To the council Jan. 5, Landhauser asked the council for expedience so the developer could continue along its tight timeline.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing this proposal,” Landhauser said. “We’d like some indication that the city’s reciprocating our efforts, trying to work with us in some way, shape or form so we’re not continuing to spin our wheels.”

Landhauser said a delayed decision, which would set back the project by a minimum of six weeks, would affect Artessa’s ability to begin pre-sale efforts in the spring, when the market is favorable.

The majority of the council indicated that it was generally in favor of the proposal, but was uncomfortable deciding without first getting input from the planning commission on the modifications.

Councilmember Kimberly Sanberg said liked the proposal, but wanted to make sure the commissioners’ concerns were addressed by the changes.

“The two things I hear most about housing in Golden Valley are that we need more senior housing and that we need more affordable housing, and the fact that this property could give us both of those things I think is really valuable,” said Sanberg.

Councilmember Gillian Rosenquist said she appreciated the developer working with residents who own homes near the property, but preferred to remain consistent with the practice of first getting insight from the planning commission.

Rosenquist said she approached her decision “more as someone who’s just concerned with the integrity of the way we do things, and the consistency of the way we do things.”

City staff also requested the proposal return to the planning commission.

Mayor Shep Harris was the sole member of the council who voted against a second review by the planning commission. He argued that he didn’t see merit in delaying the project further given the developer’s changes.

“If we’re going to kick it back to the planning commission … we need to give the planning commission direction,” Harris said. “In a sense, I think it’s not a good utilization of the planning commission’s time. I think they’ve already given us enough recommendations and enough guidance.”

Harris said he preferred to forward a zoning change request to the Metropolitan Council that night, as the property’s official use would need to be changed to high-density residential.

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