Having got off on the wrong foot in St. Anthony, developer CPG just can’t seem to please anyone. It’s not for lack of trying.
Trying to keep communication open, the company sought to give residents an update on the Lowry Grove development on Jan. 24. St. Anthony High School’s commons area was booked, so the meeting took place at New Brighton’s community center. That led some audience members to wonder if it was a deliberate attempt to limit St. Anthony residents’ participation.
When told that the Bremer Bank location was not part of the proposal CPG planned to send to the St. Anthony City Council, affordable housing advocates called the proposal a “lame attempt at providing affordable housing without the integration of the people who need it.”
Neighbors at Kenzie Terrace fretted that the new buildings to their west would give them only walls to look at, and one man decried the lack of owner-occupied units.
In between the protests and complaints, Link Wilson of Kaas Wilson Architects laid out what’s happened in the past two months.
Bremer wants to stay
The revised plan does not include the Bremer Bank property, where 51 units of workforce housing would have been built. Bremer has re-evaluated its business and wants to stay in the neighborhood. That doesn’t mean the lot the bank sits on won’t eventually become part of the development. It’s just not in the current proposal.
Some asked about the purchase agreement between Bremer and Aeon Properties. “Aeon never had a purchase agreement with Bremer,” said CPG CEO Brad Hoyt. “Their agreement was with me. When the city denied our first request, Aeon was out of the picture.” (The agreement actually expired Jan. 1.)
CPG is “still talking” to Bremer.
The Lowry Grove site has some environmental issues that need to be cleaned up before construction can begin. Bremer Bank sits atop the site of a former dry cleaning operation where perchloroethylene was used. Some of the “perc” has leached into the old trailer park. (The bank sits directly over the “hot spot.”) That soil will have to be dug up and hauled away to a safe landfill.
Oil tanks lie buried in the northwest corner of the property; some have oil in them. They’ll have to come out, too.
The third environmental concern is the dirt roads that wander through the site. Wilson said waste oil used to be spread on the dirt to keep dust down in the summer. He said the dirt will be scraped up and re-spread under new roadways in the development.
Environmental cleanup will begin as soon as possible.
Wilson said the three-story senior assisted building would be built first, followed by the four-story multi-resident building. These would be market-rate apartments.
The “gestation period” of an apartment project is two and a half years, said Hoyt. They want to start building by the end of 2018. “We need to move things forward. The longer this goes, the more the housing market is likely to turn,” Hoyt said. “We’ve had five interest rate increases since we purchased the property; three more rate increases would wipe out the project. The apartment boom will end in two years.” Once built, Hoyt said it would be two or three years before he sees a profit from the project.
CPG has met with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which has governance over Stinson Pkwy. MPRB staff recommended limiting disturbances to park property, which runs up to the sidewalk.
An independent third party is conducting a traffic study around the area; it will be submitted separately to the St. Anthony City Council. CPG plans to submit grading, utility, site and landscaping plans to the city before a public meeting on Feb. 26.
An RV park for now
CPG doesn’t expect full approval on the project until late in the year. Meanwhile, Hoyt said, he’s losing $5,000 per day on empty land. “The bank wants to know how its loan is going to be repaid; I need to generate some income from that property.”
Reverting to an RV park is his solution to the problem. The electrical hookups that served the former residents of Lowry Grove are still functional. Lowry Grove will offer parking for recreational vehicles from spring to fall, when construction may finally begin.
Below: St. Anthony residents had many questions regarding the Lowry Grove development. Developer Brad Hoyt said he’s losing $5,000 a day on the project, and shouldn’t have closed on the property. (Photos by Cynthia Sowden)