Council approves Wayzata Gateway proposal at Wells Fargo site

A redevelopment proposal two years in the making reached the Wayzata City Council Tuesday.

A rendering of the one story bank building and the new apartments submitted by Mithun Enterprises. ESG | Architecture & Design.

Mithun Enterprises, the owner of the site at 900 Wayzata Blvd E., sought breaking the property up into three parcels with a mixed use. The property is currently a Wells Fargo Bank location. The project is called Wayzata Gateway.

“This project is not something we have taken lightly, said Matt Mithun, Owner of Mithun Enterprises. “We had a very good tenant with Wells Fargo over the years. Now it’s time for a refresh.”

The proposal is to create a subdivision and rezone two of the parcels to support a bank and residential use. The parcel to the north would be a one-story, 5,500-square-foot bank with an entrance at its northwest corner. There would be a drive through serving the bank to its rear and 15 surface level parking spaces.

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Along with a rezoning and conditional use permit request for the drive through, the bank would require a design deviation as it would not have enough window space on its east side. This is due to the bank vault being located on this side.

The parcel to the east would be a two-story, 34,944-square-foot office building. It would include 44 underground parking spaces, terraces for employees and a park. Requests for this parcel included setback variances and a conditional use permit for off-site parking.

The third parcel, located along the south and west of the property, would be a residential parcel. It would feature up to 67 rental apartment units, nine two-story townhomes with two or three bedrooms and 162 underground parking spaces on two levels. Amenities would include a swimming pool, two parking entrances and green space.

The requests for the residential parcel stirred up the most discussion among the council, particularly the request for a height variance. The maximum height allowable according to the city’s design standards is 35 feet. The variance request asks for 51-feet, 8-inches.

The primary reason for such a large leap in height is the 40-foot slope stretching north and south along this portion of the property.

“We generally don’t see anything in Wayzata that has that number,” said Valerie Quarles, Assistant Planner. “We also don’t see a building built on a 40-foot slope.”

Height of the surrounding buildings provided for context. Image courtesy ESG | Archtecture & Design

Quarles noted the planning commission was split on the height variance. Those supportive of it found it to be an unavoidable challenge to development. Those who were concerned were simply cautious of the immense height as a whole.

“This is an incredibly unique site,” said Mayor Johanna Mouton. “This isn’t just a flat site where someone wants to maximize every inch.”

Mouton has not been in favor of height variances in the past, stating she does not vote in favor of them.

“I’m OK with this but barely,” she said. “It’s going to be tall. There are no two ways about it. It’s going to be imposing on Maggie Manor.”

Councilor Cathy Iverson had the most reservations about the overall proposal among the council members. She did not support the subdivision or the requests for the office parcel and the residential parcel. 

“I can’t go in the weeds when I can’t get behind the concept,” she said. “There’s too much going on in one space. There is nothing charming about it. It does not feel like a gateway to a lake community.”

While the rest of the council was supportive of the project, they agreed to include several conditions as well as staff guidance ahead of a future development agreement. Conditions include screening of the bank wall on the east side, possibly with architectural variety, vegetation or public art; mechanical equipment may not exceed the granted height variance; front yard spaces cannot be fenced in. They also asked that a pollinator meadow, which was included in the project’s plans by ESG Architecture and Design, remain in the plan.

The vote was 4-1 in favor and the resolution passed. Iverson was the lone vote against.

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