ALATUS PROJECT MOVES FORWARD
Lexington Station is chugging along, with excavation this fall and much more work to come for the next several months. The Union Park District Council (UPDC) land use committee heard a project update Oct. 17. The building’s apartments will open for new residents after 26 months of construction.
“It’s been almost five years in the making,” said Chris Osmundson, director development for Minneapolis-based Alatus. The project went through numerous neighborhood meetings and found itself in the middle of battles over gentrification and affordable housing.
Alatus purchased the site this summer from the Wilder Foundation, for $2.5 million. In mid-September, contractor Anderson Companies obtained an $8 million construction permit to build the foundation and building footings.
The six-story building under construction will have 304 dwelling units and 288 underground and at-grade parking stalls, with a mix of sizes from studios to four bedrooms. Half of the units will be market-rate at the rest will be offered at 50 to 60 percent of area median income. About 20 units will be at 50 percent area median income.
Alatus hopes to also obtain project-based housing vouchers to create further affordability for more housing units. Although a recent request for vouchers was turned down, Asmundson said Alatus will try again next year.
It will also have about 2,300 square feet of retail in the building’s first floor northeast corner. That retail space could house a small coffee shop, as well as a more informal space for residents to meet with Wilder Foundation and access programs.
In February 2021, the project had its site plan rejected on an 8-7 St. Paul Planning Commission vote. Alatus then appealed the decision to the St. Paul City Council, which upheld the Planning Commission decision, 4-3. Mayor Melvin Carter vetoed the council action, allowing the project to move head.
Then in November 2021 the St. Paul voters approved rent control, placing a 3 percent per year cap on rent increases. Lexington Station then got caught up in ongoing rent control debate, losing its original equity partner in late 2021. Another partner also dropped out.
A shift in the investment market, and a focus on affordable housing and projects with social and community benefits meant that another partner stepped forward. That happened before the city council adopted amendments to rent control, which will exempt Lexington Station.
The building will also feature a rooftop solar array, to generate more than half of the power required by the building. Renewable energy is major focus for the project, said Asmundson, with a heat pump heating and cooling system.
PROJECTS GET STAR DOLLARS
Area projects met a mixed fate in the 2022 Neighborhood Sales Tax revitalization (STAR) Program round. The St. Paul City Council approved the projects Nov. 2, wrapping up months of work by the Neighborhood STAR Board, developers and city staff. The city will fund 21 projects, with another 48 not making the cut.
The city’s top-ranked project was Abogados Café, 1053 N. Dale St., snaring a $25,000 grant for interior and exterior renovations.
Some West Midway projects also fared well. FilmNorth, 550 Vandalia, was eighth, receiving a $150,000 grant for classrooms, work space, a theater and outdoor gathering area. Bang Brewing, 2320 Capp St., got a $25,0000 loan and $75,000 grant for interior and exterior work. Shanghai Warehouse, 640 N. Prior Ave., ranked 15th, receiving a $150,000 loan and $100,000 grant for its new warehouse project.
African Economic Development Solutions ranked 12th and received a $200,000 grant for its Little Africa Plaza project on North Snelling Avenue.
Frogtown projects also got funding. BlendZ Barber Shop ranked 13th and was awarded a $15,000 grant for its shop at 741 University Ave. Sixteenth was a new commercial kitchen for Mi Linda Tierra kitchen project at 461 University Ave., with a $216,640 grant. The Black Youth healing Arts Collective will get funding for renovating its space at 843 Virginia St., with a $481,296 grant. The project ranked 17th.
The total awards were 611,561 in loans and $1.359 million in grants.
Other area projects didn’t make the cut including requests for the Snackchat Networking Lounge, Star Ocean Foods in Como, Tech Dump (now Repowered), Como Lake Bed and Breakfast, Playwrights Center, Minnesota Transportation Museum and Hamline Elementary’s request to relocate and preserve the Midway Mural Mosaic from the former Star Foods building to a south-facing wall of the school.
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