Lyndale Garden Center blossoms with civil attorneys' help


Hennepin County and the Richfield-based Cornerstone Group have joined forces to rejuvenate the former Lyndale Garden Center, a 50-year-old Richfield landmark.

The garden center will be transformed into a 7.5-acre town center with 120 apartments (20 percent will be affordable housing) and commercial and retail space likely to include a restaurant, theater, hardware and grocery stores.

Located at the intersection of 64th Street and Lyndale Avenue, Lyndale Gardens will serve as a focal point for trails that circle Richfield Lake, an amphitheater, gardens and easy access to the new transit stop located just across Lyndale Avenue.

The project is an amazing turnaround for the property. Before closing in 2006, the garden center had accommodated thousands of daily shoppers but in recent years had become marred by broken windows, missing sign letters and unfettered lodging for small animals.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office’s Civil Division worked with the Hennepin County Transit Oriented Development program to write an $850,000 loan agreement that was necessary for Lyndale Garden’s redevelopment. The division’s attorneys worked on the loan agreement for about six months, finishing in late 2011.

In addition, the Civil Division worked with the development program to structure a $285,000 grant to develop the transit stop with express bus service to downtown Minneapolis. The grant also paid for new lighting and related demolition, site work and utilities installation.

“Although the criminal trials get most of the publicity, our civil folks do great work,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “This development is really important for Richfield and I am very proud of the fine work of our civil division.”

Lyndale Gardens is the last of three projects in close proximity providing renewed vitality to Richfield. Located east of Lyndale Gardens, Lyndale Plaza is a 90-unit apartment complex with mixed-income housing. It is under construction and expected to be completed by the end of the year. South of Lyndale Plaza is Lyndale Station with a completed 45,000-square-foot LA Fitness and an additional 20,000 square feet of retail space opening in August.

Lyndale Gardens will use the existing Lyndale Garden Center building. Cornerstone Group has begun cleaning the site and stabilizing the building and expects to complete the trails and amenities in mid-2013 and begin building construction about the same time.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners established the Transit Oriented Development Program in 2003 to maximize the use of mass transit systems within the county. The program provides grants and loans for both redevelopment and new construction that encourages commercial and residential developments near transit lines, which in turn, encourages more riders on bus and light rail.

During the last nine years, Hennepin County has awarded over $17 million in grants and loans for approximately 75 urban and suburban transit-oriented projects and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office’s Civil Division lawyers worked on all of them. Funds have assisted projects near park & ride lots, bus lines and along key Hennepin County transit corridors such as Hiawatha, Central Corridor, Southwest, Bottineau, Greenway and the Dakota Rail Line.

Other recent projects have included a pedestrian bridge and Midtown Greenway ramp in Uptown, a bus shelter in Osseo, pedestrian connections and lighting near the Cedar-Riverside and Franklin Hiawatha light rail stations and a park & ride lot in Maple Plain.