A St. Paul got the blessing of the Eagan Advisory Planning Commission on Tuesday night.
After hammering out a few parking-related details, the planning commission unanimously recommended approval of a planned development amendment and final planned development application for the new development project. The facility would be developed in the Boulder Lakes Business Park in northeast Eagan and owned by developer Interstate Partners.
Once constructed, the facility would serve as the operations center for Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, or MISO, a regional electrical transmission operator serving 13 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
MISO plans to lease the building and use it as a general office space, a conference and training center, data center and control room for regional transmission operations. MISO's operations center is currently located in St. Paul, but the company plans to move to Eagan as a cost-saving measure.
The company signed a 12-year lease for the building, Interstate Partners President Greg Miller said on Monday. The new facility could be occupied and fully operational as early as March, 2014, according to planning documents provided by the developer.
Although Eagan Advisory Planning Commission members were generally receptive of the project on Tuesday night, at least one member, Jane Vanderpoel Gutknecht, questioned whether the 196 planned parking stalls were more than needed for a facility that would likely employ 90 workers.
Miller assured commission members that the extra parking would be needed to support the conference center planned as part of the facility. MISO, Miller added, has the potential to grow and hire more employees in the future, which could lead to an increased need for parking.
"Our concern with the parking, frankly, is that it's tight already, and I'm a little surprised by the commission member's discussion about reduced parking," Miller said.
Fellow commission member Dan Piper also expressed concern over parking stall size in relation to the developer's plans to build canopies to cover a portion of the parking lot planned on the site.
Worried that the canopies could restrict access in case of an emergency, the recommended 10-foot-wide parking stalls, as opposed to the standard, nine-foot-wide stalls. Piper defended the department's recommendation at the meeting on Tuesday night, despite the developer's statements that wider parking spots would lead to a reduced number of stalls.
"I guess without any other guidance, I tend to err on side of emergency service providers and what they say they need," Piper said.
Miller, whose firm was also behind the development of the Grand Oak Business Park in Eagan, said Interstate Partners eventually plans to develop as much as 760,000 square feet of building space in the complex.
"We have an extremely attractive client that we've been working on for quite some time," Miller said, referring to MISO. "We're hoping to break ground after the council approves it next week."