Zoning change for proposed apartments at former Perkins site set for council review
Developer seeks change to allow flexibility for development of proposed four- to five-story apartment building.
ROCHESTER — A proposal to rezone the site of a former Perkins restaurant will get a second hearing Monday as the Rochester City Council reviews a request to make way for a 115-unit apartment building.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based developer Nate Stencil is asking to reclassify property that includes the former Perkins Restaurant at 432 16th Ave. NW from a mix of commercial and residential uses to a transit-oriented development zoning district.
“This site is located in an area with proximity to sidewalks and biking trails. There is a bus route that runs directly down 16th Avenue. In fact, there’s a bus stop right on the corner,” Vanessa Hines, a civil engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting, told the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 13.
Hines, who is representing Stencil for the project dubbed “Stencil Luxury Apartments,” said the city has already labeled the area as a “mixed-use transit-oriented center” and the requested zoning change would provide needed flexibility to construct a planned four- to five-story apartment building on the site, which includes two other properties near the former Perkins.
A development plan for the project on the 1-acre site has not been submitted, but Rochester Community Development planner Emma Miller-Shindelar said the zone change doesn’t fit.
The city council adopted the transit-oriented development zoning district category in 2019 to provide more flexibility along key transit corridors into downtown Rochester, primarily along Second Street Southwest and Broadway Avenue.
The first dedicated transit project along those corridors is expected to by the LINK bus rapid transit project, which is currently in the planning phase.
Miller-Shindelar said the proposed apartment project’s closest stop to that service will be at St. Marys Hospital. She said it places the project outside the area that would typically be recommended for a transit-oriented development zone.
“An island of TOD zoning 0.75 walking miles from the closest proposed LINK (rapid) transit stop undermines the city's investment in the LINK program, and will permit a high-density development with reduced parking requirements, and no pedestrian-oriented site design standards, to develop outside of any currently anticipated (primary transit network) corridor,” she wrote in a report to the council.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the zoning change, but members encouraged Stencil to consider a different approach, which would call for seeking special permission on the site while maintaining current zoning.
The option would result in commission and city council review to determine whether the specific property meets the needs for the community. The review process typically takes at least 120 days once plans are submitted.
Commission members voiced support for the project, even as they objected to the requested zone change.
“We know we have a housing shortage,” commission member Asif Hossain said. “We want more multi-family housing developments.”
A third option would be to wait until the city’s planned Unified Development Code is adopted, which could create added flexibility for development between Civic Center Drive and Second Street Southwest.
The code is expected to be adopted as early as January, and Stencil said he’s unlikely to wait.
“We’re in the middle of a very strong development cycle,” he told the Planning and Zoning Commission. “We’re definitely not going to be sitting here in eight months, waiting to do this project. If we can’t find a path forward to do it in this calendar year, probably starting construction in the summer or fall, we are going to look at other development opportunities.”
The council is holding a public hearing on the zoning request during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.
The hearing is one of five scheduled. The others involve:
- A request to allow added street-level parking at Residences of Discovery Square on the northeast corner of Sixth Street Southwest and Fourth Avenue.
- A request to remove residential parking permit requirements on 8 ½ Avenue Southeast, from 13 ½ Street to 15th Street.
- A request to approve plans for a 1,000-square-foot addition to Stone Barn Dentistry, 615 16th St. SW.
- A requested zoning change for a 4.6-acre site on the north side of 41st Street Northwest, west of 31st Avenue Northwest, to make way for development of a planned apartment building.
Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of May 2 include:
• Airport Commission, 2 p.m. Monday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE
• City Council special learning session, 3:30 p.m. Monday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
• City Council, 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the Government Center. The council will meet as the city’s economic development authority during the meeting.
• Park Board, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall.
• Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Government Center.
• Physical Development Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 4 of the Government Center.
• Administrative Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in board chambers of the Government Center.
• Board of County Commissioners, 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the Government Center.
• Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 10 a.m. Wednesday in conference room 4 of the Government Center.
Rochester Public Schools
• School Board, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.