If Columbia Heights experiences a mini population explosion – just 2.8% — by 2023, roughly 560 new apartment units will be waiting for new occupants.
On June 14, the Heights City Council gave the preliminary go-ahead to two proposed apartment projects.
The first, at 825 41st Avenue NE, would allow the construction of a 62-unit apartment building just north of the Public Safety building. The area is already zoned R-4, high-density residential. Developer Reuter-Walton says the units will be affordable. They applied for a preliminary plat, which put the Public Safety Building on its own parcel and provided a separate parcel for the apartment building.
However, they also sought Planned Unit Development (PUD) rezoning to include a new home for Southern Anoka Community Assistance (SACA).
Dave Rudolph, SACA, told the council, “We’ve been helping people since 1976. We served 44,500 people in 2020; 15,900 of them were seniors from the Heights, Hilltop, Spring Lake Park and Northeast Minneapolis. We’re in a bus desert. We could help more people in a location closer to a bus line.”
SACA’s long-term lease for the city-owned land at 627 38th Avenue NE ends in 2029. They would build on what is now the parking lot adjacent to the Public Safety building.
The project will provide apartments ranging from 635-sq.-ft. one-bedroom units, 935-sq.-ft. two-bedroom units, and 1,280-sq.-ft. three-bedroom units. All units will have individual washers and dryers provided.
The main entrance will be located on the north side facing 42nd Avenue NE. The lobby and common area on the first floor of the east wing will host management offices, package room, mail area, conference room, and a common room for residents’ use. An adjacent courtyard will have a playground structure and other outdoor furniture.
The proposed design also includes 46 underground parking stalls (43 standard stalls, one compact and two ADA), and 62 exterior stalls (35 standard, 24 compact, and three ADA).
While some spoke in support of the rezoning and SACA’s quest, neighbors had other concerns, noting that heavy rainfall has caused home sewer backups in the area in the past. City Engineer Kevin Hansen said the existing sewer system has the capacity to hand the 62-unit building, but added that the city is looking at increased pipe diameters or re-routing the system in a cost-effective manner.
Others worried about traffic, but a traffic study revealed only a modest increase in vehicular and foot traffic in the area.
The council voted unanimously to allow the PUD and approve the preliminary plat. A final plat drawing must be approved. Construction would begin by the end of the year, and be complete by the beginning of 2023.
In another action, the council gave the nod to Alatus to create a Tax Increment Financing district (TIF) at 4300 Central.
Participating via Zoom, resident Sarah Arneson asked the council, “Are we building storage for humans on Central Avenue, or a community?”
Alatus has proposed to build a 400-600-unit apartment building on the east side of what is now a vast, empty parking lot. Three hundred units would rent at market rate; 120 units would be designated for seniors. The building would also include 80,000 square feet of retail space on the main floor, and underground parking. In the center of the development would be a park with a 3-acre stormwater pond.
On the west side, where the long-vacant Rainbow Foods stands, and Frattalone’s Ace Hardware and the Dollar Store still operate, they would build 26 single family homes. Presumably, the hardware store and the Dollar Store would be invited to move to the new retail space.
Alatus would work with the city to develop new infrastructure at the site, including utilities. With TIF financing, the developer would pay Columbia Heights back in increments over 26 years.
The council gave its unanimous approval for the TIF zone. Alatus expects to close on the land in July; groundbreaking would occur in early 2022.
Below: Columbia Heights City Council approved a Planned Unit Development for 825 41st Street NE that would include a new building for Southern Anoka Community Assistance (SACA). (Graphic provided by City of Columbia Heights)