In a vote of 5-2, Red Wing City Council advanced the proposed St. John's Hospital project. Now, developer Global Mercantile must submit a final plan within 90 days for final review, public hearing and a vote by the Planning Commission and City Council.
Before voting, the council attached three conditions to the plan:
• the site must include 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of green space and/or play areas,
• two parking spaces per unit must be made available (the Planning Commission had called for 1.75) and,
• the number of units in the old hospital is capped at 65. The Planning Commission was given a proposal for 102 units. The commission had recommended that Global Mercantile look at reducing the number of units to 92.
Even with 10 fewer units, the council members all agreed that 92 apartments was too high a density for the neighborhood, which is zoned residential-2, the second-lowest density level in the city.
Before the council discussed the proposed plan, Red Wing residents had the opportunity to voice their opinions.
The overwhelming majority of people who spoke were from the neighborhood and opposed the project. Though a variety of concerns were raised, the most commonly repeated were increased traffic, narrow streets that already make parking difficult, high density levels in a single-family neighborhood, and whether or not this type of housing at the proposed price is needed in Red Wing.
According to information given to the city by the Community Asset Development Group, which is working with Global Mercantile on this proposal, the current estimated rental prices for this project are:
• Studio: $866
• One bedroom: $990
• Two bedroom: $1,114
These numbers are just estimates and could fluctuate based on the number of units installed into the building.
The repeated phrase during the council's deliberation over this proposal was "this is a tough one." Council member Kim Beise noted that he heard the residents and the opposition to putting a large apartment building into the neighborhood, but said he also knows that Red Wing and surrounding cities, such as Hastings, are in need of more housing.
Council members Erin Buss, Evan Brown and Becky Norton all agreed that they wanted to see more housing in Red Wing but 92 units was too high a density for the area. The agreed-upon maximum number of units, 65, is based on the calculation of units allowed per acre in an area zoned multi-family residential (high density). Brown introduced the 65-unit maximum condition. He emphasized that 92 units is too intense for this project.
After the council voted to move this project forward, many of those in attendance voiced their displeasure, one individual saying that he will be selling his property that is near the old hospital building.
Susan Langer, a property owner near the former St. John's Hospital, told the Republican Eagle after the meeting: "I'm highly disappointed that they moved forward with it. I think that they had enough reasons why they should not move forward with it. Putting a high-density development within a historic neighborhood, single-family neighborhood, is unconscionable."
Stephanie Elsen, who spoke at both the Planning Commission and City Council, told the Eagle:
"I'm really glad that the neighborhood opposition and all our hard work is making a difference and our work is far from over. It's just begun."
The shuttered hospital, owned by Mayo Clinic Health System and most recently called the Professional and Community Center, is located at 1407 W. Fourth St. in Ward 2. Council members Dean Hove, Wards 1-2, and John Becker, Ward 2, cast the two "no" votes Monday night.
Editor's note: This story was updated July 24, 2019, to clarify the positions of City Council members.