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Elementary school questions roadway plan for apartments

By Matt Russell

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A strip of land in northwest Rochester is a point of contention between the Rochester school district and the developer of a proposed affordable housing development.

Washington Village, a redevelopment plan for a 2.4-acre parcel that has sat vacant since 2005, would include two four-story buildings with 118 apartments located just south of Washington Elementary School. The city council is expected to consider the Weis Development Corp. project Monday.

At issue with the Rochester school district is a proposed roadway extension that would provide access to Washington Village but result in Washington Elementary’s loss of a 40-foot strip of land on the southern edge of the school’s 5.8-acre property.

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The strip of land is a right-of-way that was dedicated to the city in 1946 for a one-block extension of 10th Street Northwest that was never built. Weis Development Corp. wants to build a 32-foot-wide roadway on the land that would include one lane of traffic going each way and parking stalls to the north and south, said Brent Svenby of the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department.

The right-of-way is used by Washington Elementary students during recess and physical education classes, according to district officials.

The district isn’t taking a stance for or against Washington Village, but would like to keep the right-of-way as green space and also has safety concerns about traffic being added on the south side of the Washington Elementary property, said Larry Smith, the district’s interim director of business services.

The school district does have legitimate concerns about student safety, said Dick Landwehr of Weis Development Corp., adding that the developer plans to show ideas at the council meeting Monday to address that issue.

The Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the district’s request for the city to vacate the right-of-way on the south side of the Washington Elementary property. If the district’s request gets approved by the city council, however, that would block the 10th Street Northwest extension and possibly require Washington Village plans to be altered.

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