A biotech company’s purchase, remodel, and expansion of an industrial building that’s had a lot of users over the years, and has been vacant since 2019, would seem to be a big win for Eden Prairie.
It would add jobs and tax base, and be another example of how the under-construction Metro Green Line extension of light-rail transit is spurring Eden Prairie development, with the Golden Triangle LRT station within walking distance of the building.
But the plan is prompting questions about a potential parking problem, though not enough of a problem to slow the project’s advancement through the City of Eden Prairie’s approval process.
Aldevron – a Fargo, North Dakota-based company that develops and manufactures plasmid DNA, RNA, and proteins for research scientists in the biotech industry – has purchased an existing building at 7075 Flying Cloud Drive and is asking the city to approve construction of a two-story, 96,244-square-foot addition and remodeling of the overall building.
However, Aldevron is not providing a parking plan for a large portion of the building that will remain unused for now, meaning the city down the road may have to help Aldevron come up with a parking solution.
The uncertainty prevented a unanimous endorsement of the project on Monday, Dec. 11, by the Eden Prairie Planning Commission. Instead, it voted 5-2 to recommend approval, meaning the project will move on to city council review.
Future parking needs remain unknown
Aldevron is planning to occupy a 41-year-old building that over the years has been occupied by Best Buy, Supervalu, and Bluestem Brands.
It’s a great location for expansion, Aldevron’s Lance Monilaws told the commission this week, because it’s close to educational institutions, a good labor market, and a major airport. It is also central to company headquarters in Fargo and plants in Madison, Wisconsin, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
But, not only does the building need renovation, it also needs an addition on its northwest side that provides more clear height for manufacturing than exists in the main building.
Parking for the bigger building seems to be the only hitch.
When the building is expanded, about one-third of it will remain vacant space for future Aldevron needs. The company’s proposal, supported by city staff, is to only provide employee and visitor parking based on the company’s current needs, and even that’s a stretch: at 669 parking stalls, the plan is 79 parking spaces short of city code. No plans were presented for how the empty building space will eventually be used, or how much additional parking might be needed.
City Planner Jeremy Barnhart said city staff supports the idea of tackling the issue of additional parking in the future, when more is known about Aldevron’s parking usage and how the empty space will be used. Deciding whether it’s used for warehousing, manufacturing, or office will help determine how much additional parking is needed.
Aldevron will need to return for city approval when it has developed plans for that unused building space, said Barnhart.
“I feel we’re in a good position with how we’re treating it,” he said.
But the lack of a more detailed back-up plan for additional parking didn’t sit well with commissioners Ed Farr and Carole Mette, who said it could cause problems for the city and company down the road.
“That absence of knowledge is what’s under my skin,” said Farr. “We love your company. We want you here.
“You’ve still got a chunk of cars that have nowhere to go. And nobody’s talking about this chunk of cars. They have no land to put it on,” he added.
Other commissioners disagreed, resulting in the 5-2 vote to recommend that the city council approve the project.
“I still think we’re future-protected,” said Commissioner Charles Weber. “I support the project as is.”
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