Appeals court sides with developer in Lowry Grove ownership battle


The verdict is in from the Minnesota Court of Appeals regarding the contested sale of the Lowry Grove property to The Village, LLC. The court ruled in favor of The Village and the manufactured housing community in St. Anthony Village is set to close June 30.

Residents of the Lowry Grove manufactured housing community in St. Anthony Village are fighting a legal battle to protect their homes from demolition and the land they live on from redevelopment. 

They were dealt a blow April 8, when the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with The Village, LLC, which purchased the 15-acre property for $6 million last summer and aims to have residents off the land by June 30. 

The residents, led and organized by Lowry Grove resident Antonia Alvarez, and with the aid of Minneapolis-based housing equity nonprofit Aeon, challenged the sale of the property last June by submitting a counter offer, using their right of first refusal.

According to state law, the residents’ bid would take precedence over The Village’s offer — if the two offers matched exactly and proper procedure had been followed. 

The appeals court agreed in part with the September ruling of Hennepin County District Court Judge Joseph Klein, who ruled in favor of the developer.

According to the appeals court, Aeon’s counter offer differed slightly from The Village’s. In addition, The Village argues the residents’ petition to buy the land did not carry the names of 51 percent of Lowry Grove residents, also required by state law. 

Since the sale, Lowry Grove residents and their supporters have held a number of marches, rallies and protests, the latest of which being a 24-hour vigil starting April 28. Some 200 people showed up for the gathering that commemorated one year since residents were told they would have to leave the property. 

Aeon founder and CEO Alan Arthur has said if the sale to The Village is ultimately deemed lawful, it means most residents of the manufactured housing community will not only have to leave Lowry Grove, but St. Anthony, meaning children will have to leave School District 282 and attend school elsewhere.

Arthur said affordable housing in St. Anthony and the surrounding suburbs is “limited” and redevelopment is making it more scarce.

Traci Tomas, vice president of The Village, has laid out preliminary plans for some of the housing on the development to be labeled “affordable.” Such housing, she said, will likely come in the form of “micro units,” not necessarily fit for families. She also confirmed the units will not be as affordable as the $400 site rents some Lowry Grove residents currently pay per month. 

Tomas has had a standing offer to residents to pay for their homes and some of their relocation costs, though the amount of money is dependant upon the home and the individual. 

One thing the appeals court did say, however, is that The Village may owe residents more money than they are currently being offered. 

Dozens of resident have already taken Tomas’ offer and their homes have already been demolished. According to Ned Moore, development director of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles — Assembly for Civil Rights — a faith-based social justice organization that has been advocating on behalf of the residents, at last count, about 100 people are still living on the property.  

The case now goes back to the lower court for consideration, but Arthur and Alvarez have both indicated the possibility of bringing it to the Minnesota Supreme Court for a second appeal attempt. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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