Non-profit developer Aeon presented a concept for a proposed apartment building on the corner of Stinson Pkwy. and Kenzie Terrace to approximately 50 residents of St. Anthony Village the evening of May 7. The development, which would be separate from The Village that will be built next door by Continental Properties Group, would raze the Bremer Bank building and put 70 affordable units in its place. Bremer, which wants to stay in the neighborhood, would operate out of a stand-alone building in front of the development.
Blake Hopkins, Aeon vice president for development, took care to emphasize that the proposal – and everything about it – is still in the preliminary stages.
St. Anthony residents seemed to feel there was a lot to like in this initial presentation. The proposed building would be four stories high, and only six feet taller than the current bank building. It would contain 70 units ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments. Surface parking spaces would number 83 for residents and eight for the bank; below-grade parking stalls are also included.
The design, by Tod Elkins, UrbanWorks Architecture, follows the “CPTED” concept – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. The proposal includes porches and steps along Stinson Pkwy., and windows that face the street. The curb cut on Stinson would be eliminated, lessening traffic concerns. Residents would enter the building on the Kenzie Terrace side, and existing curb cuts on that thoroughfare would be re-used.
The building would have more apartments stacked up on the east side of the building, creating a visual continuation from The Village development and allowing the Stinson side to appear more in scale with private homes across the street in Minneapolis. Gabled roofs would also “blend” it into the neighborhood. Children would be able to play in a safe area away from the street.
Although the proposal seemed to garner initial audience approval, there are a lot of unknowns at this stage.
Who will own the bank property?
Aeon and Bremer are still in negotiation over the land. Hopkins said they don’t know yet if Aeon will purchase the parcel and lease back a portion of it to Bremer, or if Bremer will sell the entire parcel to Aeon, then buy back the part where it will build its new bank. No designs have been proposed for the bank building. Bremer also owns a triangle across the street near Catrina’s Restaurant and is thinking about putting a drive-up ATM on it.
Will St. Anthony put up the money?
Construction costs are pegged at $18 million. Non-profit Aeon would put $200,000 of its money into the project and ask the City of St. Anthony for $1 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to help finance construction. (This prompted one resident to say she didn’t want her taxes raised; another wanted to know where she could send a check.) Commercial developer CPG has asked for $20 million in TIF for The Village. Attorney Jack McCann, who worked with the former Lowry Grove residents, said St. Anthony needs to “fork it over.”
Aeon would also seek about $3.8 million in funds from Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council and the State of Minnesota. The rest would come from private investors.
What does Aeon get out of it?
One resident wondered what kind of profits Aeon expected to take out of the development. Hopkins responded that the company charges a yearly 4-5 percent property management fee, or approximately $30-40,000 per year. The non-profit houses more than 8,000 low-income Minnesotans.
What about density?
At 70 units, the proposed development would have a density of 38 units per acre. Aeon says it needs this density to make living there affordable. St. Anthony’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan calls for density of 25-40 units per acre, so Aeon’s proposal is at the high end; CPG quickly learned that 25 was the preferred number.
Will former Lowry Grove residents get preference?
Former Lowry Grove resident and activist Antonia Alvarez sought assurances that the 100 people evicted from the mobile home park would have a first chance at moving into the new building. Hopkins replied that under fair housing rules, Aeon must open the units to anyone who qualifies. McCann challenged his statement. Hopkins replied, “Jack, maybe you know something I don’t. We’re just trying to follow the rules.”
Will the units be affordable?
At 60 percent of average median income (AMI), a three-bedroom apartment would cost $1,471 per month, utilities included. (Average rent for a three-bedroom unit in Minneapolis is $1,874.) At 30 percent AMI, a one-bedroom apartment would cost $531, utilities included. Some wondered if a family could afford to rent a three-bedroom.
When will construction start?
Aeon has many hoops to jump before construction can begin. It has to submit a TIF application with the city and get approval on land use. It will also have to present more refined plans and drawings to the St. Anthony Planning Commission and the City Council to gain final approval.
As revealed during public hearings about The Village, the 1.8-acre Bremer site will require environmental remediation to remove perchloroethylene from the soil, a legacy from the drycleaning company that once operated there. Because the federal government requires banks to operate continuously, the bank building would be constructed first, before the Bremer building is knocked down. Groundbreaking would occur summer 2019 and the apartment building would open the following summer.
Below: Preliminary plan for Aeon’s project shown from Kenzie Terrace angle. (UrbanWorks graphic)