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Open house set June 12 on Cypress Drive plans

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A roundabout is planned at the Cypress Drive and Excelsior Road intersection. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 5
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Plans call for a multi-year phase approach to Baxter's Cypress Drive project slated to begin in 2018. A June 12 open house will give property owners and residents an opportunity for an in-depth look. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch5 / 5

BAXTER—Plans for street and trail improvements in the Cypress Drive project area are now expected to be completed during the next three years.

On June 6, Scott Hedlund, Short Elliott Hendrickson project engineer, presented a proposal to do the 2018 Cypress Drive project in phases.

The council sought a study to determine the feasibility of multiple projects related to Cypress Drive, whether projects should be packaged with other projects and the estimated cost and assessments. The city's longtime plan is to connect Cypress Drive, which now ends on either side of Highway 210, make a new intersection across Highway 210 and move the signal lights from Golf Course Drive by Kohl's to the new Cypress Drive link. One of the holdups has been negotiating a railroad crossing.

The city's recent construction plan calls for:

• Connect Cypress Drive from about 700 feet south of College Road to about 500 feet north of Excelsior Road.

• Intersections of Highway 210 at Cypress Drive and Highway 210 at Golf Course Road.

• Work on Excelsior Road on either side of Cypress Drive.

• Fairview Road, from Cypress Drive to about 600 feet to the west.

• Industrial Park Road east and west of Cypress Drive.

• College Road on the east and west sides of Cypress Drive

• Pedestrian improvements, such as trails, along Highway 210 and Excelsior Road—from Cypress Drive to the Paul Bunyan State Trail and along Cypress Drive from College Road to Excelsior Road.

• Benefiting properties would be assessed for all or a portion of the cost.

Hedlund expressed a concern for disrupting all those areas in the same season. The project isn't expected to begin until June or July of 2018 and Hedlund said it could all be done in one year but it made more sense to divide it into phases and years.

The Fairview Road segment, west of Super One Foods, is complex, Hedlund said. The area includes a trail west of Excelsior and storm sewer. The trail has challenges, Hedlund said. He noted the capital improvement plan has Fairview Road and Golf Course Drive to be done in the next five years creating financial implications and disruptions to businesses using access on Fairview road, Highway 210 and Golf Course Drive and Cypress Drive as well.

The Arbor Glen trail connection, east of Cypress Drive, can be a standalone project and thus done at anytime, Hedlund said. That project, which will link the apartments with the Paul Bunyan State Trail, will be 100 percent assessed.

Hedlund recommended streamlining the Cypress Drive road improvements to its main corridor, some trail improvements, as well as the planned roundabout between Super One Foods and the Paul Bunyan trail bridge. Super One Foods wants to redo its parking lot this year. Plans call for getting rid of the Fairview Road where extends along the Super One Foods parking lot and links with Cypress Drive. Instead Fairview Road would end where it connects with the Super One Foods parking lot parallel to Highway 210. Since some of the grocery store's parking lot is being used for the Cypress Drive project, eliminating that segment of Fairview would make room for additional parking.

Hedlund suggested moving the project in phases and stretching it out into 2019 and 2020. One question remains is what use Golf Course Drive has after Cypress Drive is completed. Both will offer north and south alternate routes for drivers.

The road to nowhere

The multi-lane Cypress Drive was put in through the former Pine Meadows Golf Course by developers of the Baxter Town Center. The development had a groundbreaking in the fall of 2006. At that time work had already begun on Cypress Drive.

Baxter Town Center was to be a multi-family housing and retail development creating a regional lifestyle center similar to the Arbor Lakes development in Maple Grove. The first phase on the 100-acre site of the former golf course was estimated to be a $50 million investment. Plans called for a mix of multi-family housing and retail in a pedestrian friendly design with green space, trees and water features. Expectations were for a railroad crossing for Cypress Drive in 2008.

Then came the Great Recession and all those detailed plans and great dreams strangled on the vine. All that remained was the four-lane divided street from Excelsior Road north to where it dead ends past Clearwater Road. A newspaper headline and common use dubbed it the road to nowhere. That's where it largely remained for the last decade.

Council concurs

"I completely agree with phasing the pieces," said council member Todd Holman.

He asked engineering to consider doing Fairview Road in 2019 so it isn't out there waiting too long for the right project, should it need to be bundled with other roadwork. Combining projects is typically used to make them more cost effective and appealing for bids. If Arbor Glen can happen anytime, Holman asked why not 2018.

He also challenged staff to think a lot about connecting Cypress Drive north to Woida Road and south to Highland Scenic Road, also known as County Highway 48.

In a three-year phased plan, Holman suggested at least looking at making those connections in the third year or 2020.

Council members Mark Cross and Steve Barrows also agreed with doing the project in phases.

Barrows echoed Holman's comments to consider completing Cypress Drive in its entirety.

Barrows said: "I think we've had the road to nowhere long enough."

Factbox

A Cypress Drive open house is set at 6 p.m. Monday, June 12 at Baxter City Hall with a phasing diagram and more information for property owners affected by the project.