Children’s Home site redevelopment update

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Here is the latest information SHA has from the Ad Hoc 180 Grotto Advisory Committee on the status of redevelopment of Wilder Foundation’s old Bush Memorial Children’s Home site at 180 S. Grotto. 

Wellington Management has signed a purchase agreement with the Wilder foundation for its 2.63 acre parcel of property at 180 South Grotto. Although Wellington Management has not yet made a final determination as to how the property would be used, it is currently working The Emily Program on a possible reuse of the old Wilder/Bush program facilities.

Wellington Management is also considering selling single family home lots on the east side of the property and is in the process of developing a site plan. As of this writing, Wellington Management is scheduled to present its proposed detailed use and site plan at a neighbaorhood meeting on July 20th. Neighbors within approximately a two block radius were invited to attend.  

The Emily Program is a private, for-profit eating disorder treatment program (www.emilyprogram.com). It operates at a number of sites in the Twin Cities and beyond. At a neighborhood meeting in late May, Dirk Miller, owner and CEO of The Emily Program, told neighbors that they are interested in primarily operating a 16-24 bed residential treatment program in the existing buildings. This use would become part of their Anna Westin House program. The existing buildings would be renovated to suit their purposes. At the same meeting, Wellington Management staff indicated that there may be a need financially to sell single family home lots on the east side of the property to make the project work.

The property is residentially zoned as “R4”. R4 zoning is primarily for single family homes, but a residential treatment center is allowed for 6 beds. A residential treatment program with more than 6 beds is allowed with either a “non-conforming use permit or a conditional use permit” issued by the city. The Bush Program operated under a non-conforming use permit that allowed 36 beds – though the program ran below this level.

Non-conforming use permits and conditional use permits expire after 365 days of non-use. The Wilder/Bush program permit expired March 2011. Wellington Management and The Emily Program will be seeking the re-establishment of the Wilder/Bush non-conforming use permit to operate on this property. At this time, we do not now know how many beds will be requested in the permit application.  

The city will only consider such a permit if the application includes a supporting consent petition signed by at least 67% of property owners within 100′. If the petition requirement is met, the city will schedule public hearings. Public hearings would be held first by the SHA, and then the Zoning Committee of the city Planning Commission. The Planning Commission makes the final decision on the permit request. The City Council hears appeals.

Last winter nearby neighbors established a neighborhood “180 South Grotto” advisory committee. This committee is a point of neighborhood contact for Wilder and potential purchasers. It is also in place to inform and involve nearby residents. This committee is aware of neighborhood concerns around issues of traffic, parking, density, historic integrity, alley use, etc. It has conveyed these concerns to Wellington Management.