Plans for the development of 34 luxury housing units on the east side of Faribault are coming closer to fruition.
The Faribault Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously expressed its support for a preliminary and final plat along with a conditional use permit to enable development of the site, formerly home to the Mayo Clinic.
Thompson James Group South Division is requesting approval to develop Austin James Luxury Community, a two-story rental townhome residential development at 924 First St. NE. The City Council is expected to consider the application Tuesday. If council approval is secured, site work is scheduled to begin this fall, with winter/spring construction on the first set of units.
The Faribault branch of Mayo Clinic operated on the property until 2017. Since then, the property owner, Prime Properties has marketed the site for potential residential or commercial uses.
Earlier this year, Terry Robertson, Curt Brekke and Darrell Thompson of the C-Alan Homes/Thompson James Group unveiled their plans. An established luxury home builder with some 25 years of experience, C-Alan Homes has traditionally focused on building custom luxury homes with a price range of $1.5 million to $6 million, only recently expanding into the rental market.
The project would represent C-Alan Homes’s first venture outside the Twin Cities. Nonetheless, the firm has professed a commitment to Faribault, with Robertson saying he plans to move to the city whether the deal proceeds or not. Robertson has noted developers are interested in eventually engaging in phase two work, which could include another 80 units. The project is intended to offer an appealing option to highly educated, well-compensated professionals who work for companies such as Daikin Applied and SageGlass and no longer want to commute long distances to work.
Over the past several years, developers have come forward with residential concepts, including a 2019 proposal from a previous developer to construct a four-story, 89-unit apartment building. However, the previous developer eventually changed those plans to three floors and 78 units with underground parking. That project was ultimately shelved amid strong opposition from neighbors, including City Councilor Tom Spooner and Jeff Jandro, one of the city’s most prominent developers. To critics, the project was too tall, too big and just didn’t fit into their quiet residential neighborhood. The developers have been told that community buy-in is essential for the plans.
However, during Tuesday’s meeting, Spooner said he felt comfortable with the updated plans, echoing comments he made this spring.
“This is very nice, and it’s great for the community as a whole,” he said in a March 2 Daily News article. “It’s something we don’t have and it’s going to work out really well.”
City Planner David Wanberg noted the proposal fits into the city’s Journey to 2040 Land Use Plan. During the Planning Commission meeting, he said the project is especially important as Faribault continues experiencing a vacancy rate of less than 1%. Housing is especially needed on the east side of the city. Wanberg noted any traffic increases from the development will not be enough to pose serious problems. Plans call for individual entrances to the units.
The City Council still needs to approve the developers request for a conditional use permit.