Lowry Grove residents gain strong ally

A group of Lowry Grove residents gather together in support of keeping their homes.

Residents of St. Anthony’s Lowry Grove mobile home park have been left with uncertainty after their right of first refusal was flipped on its back when their purchase agreement was deemed insufficient by the park’s buyer and seller June 13. The Lowry Grove land was sold and is now owned by Continental Property Group, but residents, who will have to pack up and leave in the spring, have sued to retain their right of refusal.

State attorney general’s office picks side in legal fight

The battle continues for residents of the Lowry Grove manufactured housing community in St. Anthony, who want their homes to remain their homes.

With the help of Minneapolis-based non-profit Aeon, residents put together a counter purchase agreement, submitting it to Lowry Grove’s former owner Phil Johnson June 10, before a stated deadline, hoping to block the planned sale to Wayzata-based developer Continental Property Group. 

But their attempt to use their right of first refusal was itself refused when the buyer and seller both claimed the counter-purchase agreement did not meet all the criteria that Minnesota requires.

According to state law, if the residents were able to match the purchase agreement, coming up with $6 million to pay for the property, they would have the upper hand and could take ownership, via Aeon. 

They couldn’t do it alone, resident Lowry Grove leader Antonia Alvarez explained, so they sought assistance and found Aeon, which was ready to put the money down for Lowry Grove.

“Aeon’s mission,” founder and CEO Alan Arthur said, “is to create and maintain affordable housing because there are those who need it.”

Arthur said the non-profit owns and manages 2,650 affordable apartments and has been operating for three decades. Aeon, however, isn’t the residents’ only ally anymore. 


A new voice is heard

Along with receiving support from neighboring communities, as of Aug. 3, the residents received word that the Minnesota attorney general’s office will be filing an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Aeon and the residents against the sale.

“The state has a strong interest in this case,” Assistant Attorney General Adam Welle said in a letter to Judge Joseph Klein.  

According to Ned Moore, development director of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (Assembly for Civil Rights), a faith-based social justice organization that organizes and develops leaders to transform issues and systems affecting communities, “residents are now more determined than ever and hopeful that support from the state will help tip the balance in their favor.”


The fate of 15 acres

As for Continental Property Group, its plans hinge on maintaining ownership of the 15-acre property in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue N.E., not far from downtown Minneapolis.

In the next few months, Traci Tomas, president of the group, said she would be meeting with St. Anthony city officials and residents to see what sort of new development would fit with the Lowry Grove land.

“There will, for sure, be an affordable housing component, I’ve said that all along, but how much, how many units, all of that stuff is yet to be decided,” Tomas said in an interview.

When asked if the future affordable housing would be comparable to the $400 site rent Lowry Grove residents currently pay, she said, “No, I don’t think that it will be, to be honest.”

Tomas said she has market researchers looking into options for affordable housing in the future development.

But, according to Aeon and the residents, it’s preferred that the land stays as is, though Arthur said essential maintenance updates would have to be made to the decades-old infrastructure.

“We are all family,” Alvarez said in a statement, “and families defend themselves.”

Just how that will play out, remains to be seen. 


Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at @JPooleNews.

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