When the Wilder Foundation stopped children’s residential programming at the old Bush Memorial Children’s Home in June 2010, the site at 180 S. Grotto was first put up for sale in August. A large condo project was first envisioned by a potential purchaser, but by January 2011, due to several issues that project was withdrawn and the property put back on the market.
In February 2011, several nearby residents met to create an Ad Hoc Committee of Neighbors around 180 South Grotto willing to talk with potential developers interested in discussing any re-use or redevelopment proposal with the surrounding impacted neighbors.
By July 2011, a new purchase agreement, conditioned on specific zoning changes to the property, was created between the Wilder Foundation and Wellington Management to purchase and renovate the old Bush program facilities that would then be leased to The Emily Program to operate their Anna Westin House eating disorder treatment program. The Emily Program operates 7 facilities in Minnesota. In addition, five single family home lots would be created for sale on the eastern part of the property.
The parking lot would be increased by 37 stalls. The zoning changes would require re-establishment of a Non-Conforming Use Permit that the Bush Home had as a residential facility; and a Conditional Use Permit to make a significant increase in off-street parking that would help take pressure off local street parking that has been an issue in the past for local neighbors. The re-platting of the property would also have to be approved by the City Council to form 6 residential lots – 1 for the facility and 5 single-family.
The NCUP application required, under city code, that at least 66% of the households within 100 feet of the site to sign a petition supporting the project. Wellington Management was able to garner signatures from 20 out of 28 potential households or 71%. On Nov. 7th, the Summit Hill Association –Zoning & Land Use Committee held a public hearing to formally review the NCUP and CUP applications and to gather citizen input on the project. After much discussion, SHA voted to recommend to the city Planning Commission that the two permits be approved by the city with the three conditions limiting: the number of residential beds in facility to 24; the number of outpatient “step-down” program clients in any one day to 20 and only those who had gone through this facilities residential program; and not allowing “out-patient only” clinicians at the site. As of Nov. 15th, the project is awaiting action from the full Planning Commission on Nov. 18th.