Golden Valley office building may be replaced with new business center | Community

A Golden Valley office building that has sat vacant for several years may be replaced.

Formerly occupied by Optum Health, the 60-year-old building shares a border with Golden Valley Country Club to the west and Douglas Drive to the east. Developer United Properties is hoping to demolish the building and construct two new buildings in its place.

If approved, work is expected to begin in the summer or fall of 2022.

The two buildings would total 399,000 square feet, and would feature higher, warehouse-style ceilings and access for large vehicles. The current building’s 304,000 square feet is divided into offices and a data center. The property’s 1,300-space parking lot would also be removed to make way for the buildings.

Clearance to build the new center is pending approvals by the Golden Valley City Council, chiefly a change in the property’s land use from office to light industrial. The council opted Nov. 16 to delay the approvals until early December due to a staff request. Golden Valley Planning Manager Jason Zimmerman advised the council to delay a vote and public hearing on the proposals that night “in light of some recent questions.”

Zimmerman said the proposal was “complicated,” and the developer was in support of the delay to the Dec. 7 meeting. The developer also planned to have a representative attend the meeting on the behalf of the property owner, Zimmerman said.

Industrial in demand

The change in land use from office to light industrial is expected to entice tenants that need accommodations for research and development, light manufacturing and warehouse uses. Both United Properties and the building owner agree the current building is “not viable” in the current workplace environment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused serious uncertainty regarding the future of office space demand, and ‘work from home’ strategies continue to threaten the outlook for space occupiers and real estate owners,” wrote United Properties in their application to the city. “Conversely over the last 18-months the demand for production, lab/R&D, and warehousing of goods and services within the United States has grown exponentially to meet the demand of consumers.”

The land use change was narrowly supported by the Golden Valley Planning Commission on a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Lauren Pockl and Adam Brookins voted against the measure. In the meeting, the two appeared to support other zoning possibilities. A representative of United Properties responded that due to a strict purchase agreement with the seller, he may not have the time needed to discuss alternatives.

However, the Planning Commission was unanimous in its approval of the preliminary plat for the business center.

Link to Country Club and Douglas drives

Another component of the proposal is a possible connection between Douglas and Country Club drives. According to city documents, the city plans to require the developer to dedicate land in the middle of the site to accommodate a future public right-of-way of the two roads.

Connecting the roads has been a goal of the city, and is written into its Comprehensive Plan.

The Golden Valley Country Club does not support the connection. In a letter to the city, General Manager Don Kovacovich said he supported the project to redevelop the property as long as it didn’t include changes to Country Club Drive.

“We feel any road would have a negative impact to our members, the playability of our golf course, and financially due to the cost of additional netting needed to protect a road,” Kovacovich said.

He continued: “Please remember GVCC has been located in Golden Valley for 107 years and our long-term plans are to remain a golf course. Our current real estate projects before the city are to raise capital dollars for the club’s future improvements to the golf course and the clubhouse.”

Better uses?

At the Nov. 16 meeting, Mayor Shep Harris said he had concerns with the proposal and he would prefer to consider a “better use” for the property, whether that involved United Properties or not. Harris used housing as an example, citing local news coverage of the lack of affordable apartments for renters.

“The market might say this is great for what they’ve proposed,” Harris said. “That’s the market. I’m wondering if this is what’s best for our community.”

Harris said the issue was complicated by the city’s history of turning down projects with United Properties.

“I’m very sensitive to the fact that they’re back, which is great, but I’m also sensitive to this particular property,” Harris said.

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