A 243-unit affordable housing complex at the northwest corner of Fairview and University avenues is moving toward a 2021 construction start. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board October 14, unanimously approved $30 million in conduit bond for the 1825 University Limited Partnership’s $63.9 million project.
The project was unveiled in late 2019 for Hamline Midway Coalition and Union Park District Council. Its two seven-story buildings will include a mix of 15 studio, 89 one-bedroom, 63 two-bedroom, and 76 three-bedroom units studios, one, two and three-bedroom units. Units range from 534 square feet to 2,104 square feet in size.
It will have about 150 parking spaces in a lot shared with nearby Goodwill Easter Seals and more than 120 underground parking spaces. A playground is also planned, along with plazas by each building.
The project, which is developer Reuter Walton’s first foray into affordable housing in St. Paul, will use what is called “income averaging” for rents. There will be 27 units at 30 percent of area median income (AMI), 83 units at 50 percent of AMI, 58 units at 60 percent of AMI and 75 units at 80 percent of AMI. The affordability requirement will be for 30 years. The units at or below 50 percent of AMI will remain fixed for 30 years. Other AMI units may float rental rates, as long as overall rents and incomes average 60 percent of AMI.
One change to the original plans is the addition of 2,400 square feet of retail space at the corner of Fairview and University, something HMC has pushed for. Ward Four Council Member Mitra Jalali praised the addition of commercial space, saying it will provide opportunity for local businesses to be part of the new development.
“We’re really excited about the project,” said Paul Keenan, vice president of development at Reuter Walton. He noted it will help meet a demand for larger, affordable units for families. “To provide a lot of two and three-bedroom units is a big component of this project.”
Keenan also said the current COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the demand for quality workforce housing.
The project was able to come together quickly for several reasons, said Marie Franchette, project manager for the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED). The developer was chosen by longtime landowner Goodwill Easter Seals, which assembled the properties for several years. The site includes a gas station that later served as Andy’s Garage restaurant and a Goodwill shop, the former Finn Sisu ski shop, a two-story commercial building and other buildings that were torn down earlier. Part of the site along University has been parking for Goodwill Easter Seals. Businesses closed or moved over the years.
The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods four use. At this point it’s not anticipated that any zoning change or variances will be needed.
Franchette said no other city financial assistance is sought for the project. Nor is there a need for gap financing The conduit bond issue doesn’t create any debt or obligation for the HRA and the city. The city acts as a pass-through for this type of financing.
Of the development’s total cost of $63.9 million, $30 million are the conduit multi-family housing bonds. The project also includes Low Income Housing Tax Credits, a Fannie Mae loan, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development contamination cleanup grant, Metropolitan Council Tax Base Revitalization Account and other sources.
The project will create a total of 1,080 construction jobs, with 1,026 of those anticipated to be local hires. It’s anticipated that the project will generate 2,246,400 labor hours.
New apartments near Marshall and Cleveland avenues
A proposal to redevelop the Suds America property at 2045 Marshall Ave. into a four-story mixed-use building got a vote of support Oct. 19 from the Union Park District Council land use committee.
Developer Paul Tucci and 2C Development wish to tear down the laundromat and build a structure there with about 50 underground and surface parking, one story of commercial space and three stories of housing.
The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods (TN) two use. That allows heights of up to 45 feet without a conditional use permit, with more height allowed through a conditional use permit process. Tucci said more height is needed to make the project financially viable. The property was rezoned in fall 2018 as part of the larger West Marshall Avenue Zoning Study. It’s not clear yet if the property would need any variances. The request for a conditional use permit and any variances if needed would go to the St. Paul Planning Commission before year’s end.
Housing would be mix of 55 studio, one and two-bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 530 to 1,095 square feet. Committee members pushed for some of the housing units to be at an affordable rent level.
Questions were also asked about a tenant for the 2,500 square feet of first-floor commercial space. Tucci has been in talks with a restaurant but nothing has been finalized yet.
The plans were recently reviewed with the district council’s transportation committee, which is recommending that all parking access be from the building’s alley and that there be no curb cuts on Marshall. Suds America has two curb cuts and surface parking areas.
Funding sought for reuse at 678 N. Snelling
A vacant building on North Snelling Ave. is the focus of efforts to obtain city finding. In October the St. Paul City Council approved applications for rehabilitation and reuse of 678 N. Snelling Ave.
The brick building has housed a number of businesses over the years. It has been on the city’s “problem properties” listings in the past several months. It has sat vacant since a lighting and fan store moved out. The building has drawn attention because past historic studies have called out its significance.
The intent is to clean up the site and building, and explore feasibility of office space on the second floor and retail on the first floor. Another idea being considered is to add housing at the site.
Developers have to seek grants through the city. City officials are seeking Tax Base Revitalization Account dollars for the project, from the Metropolitan Council. No dollar amount was listed.
The city is also seeking Metropolitan Council Livable Communities Demonstration Account Transit-Oriented Development Pre-Development grant fund for 678 Snelling Avenue N., for $100,000.
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