The Oct. 2 issue of the Northeaster stated that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) had been monitoring air quality at the Bremer Bank site for 18 months, and “the reports are not good.” (“Proposal to shuffle Bremer & housing,” p.1). The reporter misunderstood the statement. No impact on indoor air quality has been found in the Bremer Building.
Bremer Bank has a problem. Its office at 2401 Lowry Avenue NE sits on polluted land. Once the site of a dry cleaning operation, the soil beneath the bank is contaminated with perchlorethylate (perc), a substance that has fallen out of use in the dry cleaning industry. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been monitoring indoor air quality for the last 18 months, and the reports are not good.
Bremer has another problem. It has more building than it needs.
On September 23, representatives from Bremer and St. Cloud-based developer Trident came before a working session of the St. Anthony City Council and the city’s Planning Commission with a proposal that could provide 75 new homes on the site, mark a new gateway to the community, and keep Bremer in a city it wants to continue to do business in.
Bremer Corporate Vice President of Real Estate Jon Fahning said Bremer was reevaluating all its real estate holdings and said, “St. Anthony is a community we want to reinvest in.” He noted that Bremer uses only one-third of its current building.
Like shuffling a deck of cards, the proposed development would shuffle properties between the city and Bremer. It requires a little bit of stretching to call it a Planned Unit Development (PUD), but it appears both parties are interested.
Typically, a PUD covers contiguous properties and requires a minimum of three acres of land. In this proposal, however, it involves three separate parcels. The first is the 1.89-acre Bremer Bank site. The second is a .32-acre triangle of an unused parking lot across Kenzie Terrace that Bremer owns. The third is a .91-acre site next to Autumn Woods that once contained a bowling alley. It’s owned by the city and does not currently generate any tax revenue. The combined total acreage comes to 3.12, just barely making the cut. Mayor Jerry Faust found it an “intriguing” idea. City Planner Steve Grittman, who chaired the meeting, said it was “unusual, but not illegal.”
Bremer and Trident propose to buy the bowling alley site from the city and build a single-story bank there. It would provide 3,500-5,000 square feet of office space which would be solely used by Bremer. A drive-through teller window would be accessible from Kenzie Terrace. The new Bremer Bank would include a community gathering space and would put the property back on the tax rolls.
Bremer would sell its current site to Trident, which would construct a three- or four-story senior assisted living and memory care facility there. The site would requirement environmental cleanup and is eligible for funds from Hennepin County to carry out the work.
The building itself would provide 54 assisted living units (a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments) and 21 memory care units, with roughly 40 units per acre. The preliminary design concept includes 49 underground heated parking stalls and 27 surface spaces. Residents would have an onsite commercial kitchen and complete meal service, a spa with hydrotherapy tubs, onsite health, nursing and wellness programs, a fitness center and 24/7 staffing. Twenty percent of the units would be reserved for residents earning 50% or less of the Area Median Income.
Trident owns and operates all the senior care buildings it erects, with the help of Tealwood Senior Living. “We don’t build and sell,” said Roger Fink, Trident senior vice president. He noted that by 2028, the demand for needs-based housing for seniors will hit a crescendo. “There won’t be enough buildings to go around,” he said. The company boasts a 97% occupancy rate in its facilities across Minnesota and the Dakotas. The facility is projected to have a $2.2 million annual payroll.
Bremer would give its little triangle to the city, which could be developed into a “Welcome to St. Anthony” node with trees and a walking path connecting residents on the south side of it to Kenzie Terrace. The area’s nonpermeable surface would be reduced from 80% to 10%, an environmental win.
The council and planning commission gave Trident and Bremer the go-ahead to continue talks with city staff on the development and to prepare more detailed plans. Bremer hopes to close the deal with Trident by year-end.
Below: Area #1 is the current bank site which would become housing, block #3 is a Bremer Bank-owned unused parking lot that would become a city welcome sign, and #2 is currently city-owned and would be Bremer’s new site. (Provided graphic)