Planning Commission approves Linden Hills CVS

LINDEN HILLS — Plans for a CVS/pharmacy at Sunnyside & France avenues made it through the Minneapolis Planning Commission Sept. 8 after months of often heated community discussion about the development.

The 13,600-square-foot store will replace the former Almsted’s Sunnyside Market building and an adjacent gas station.

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) started hosting community meetings with project developers in April to discuss the plans and gather input from area residents. Many in the neighborhood were concerned about the national pharmacy chain’s “big box” design not fitting into the neighborhood. Parking problems, environmental issues and other concerns were also brought up.

In the end, the Planning Commission approved the development with 16 conditions, such as creating a dumpster enclosure out of brick, adding a sign to encourage people using the much-debated pharmacy drive-through to shut off their vehicles and adding more bicycle parking spaces.  

CVS developers must also work with community members to develop the building’s signage and outdoor lighting.

LHiNC never took a formal position on the project, but did ask the Planning Commission to evaluate the project using the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Great Streets Design and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design programs. Some residents are still upset about the development, but LHiNC Chairwoman Linea Palmisano said she thinks the neighborhood was heard and the project will be better for it.

“I think that the neighborhood has been heard in the most effective way possible to influence this project of a private commercial property,” she said.

Palmisano said getting the look of the CVS right is important because its location on the Edina border makes it a “gateway” building. She said she’s hopeful the community will reach an agreement with CVS’s development company, Velmeir Companies, on signage and lighting that improves the building’s appearance.  

She said she also wished developers would take a deeper look at making the building sustainable.

“Sustainability in a building means more than just a green roof,” she said. “I’m not sure we’ve hit that mark.”

CVS representatives could not be reached for comment.  

Planning Commission President David Motzenbecker said overall, the project would be good for the area. He said the developers’ discussions with the community made the approval process much easier.

“I think the key piece was that CVS and their representatives met extensively with the neighborhood,” he said. “And they listened quite well to concerns and adjusted for them.”

Motzenbecker also said the long list of conditions was palatable.

“Corporate companies have an arsenal of multiple designs they can choose from when working with neighborhoods that have concerns or other things where they can’t just put up their kind of standard vanilla idea,” he said.

City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward), who spearheaded an effort to restrict oversized homes in the area last year, said the issue of fitting the character of a neighborhood applies to businesses, too. She commended LHiNC for starting the CVS discussion early and thought the process ran smoothly from start to finish.

“This is about the neighborhood and the city coming together to create neighborhoods that people love,” Hodges said.

Velmeir had been planning to start construction this fall and open the store by the end of the year. Curb cutting along 45th Street has already started.

For more information about the planned CVS and neighborhood process, visit www.lindenhills.org.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.