Lowry Grove may reopen as manufactured housing


A sign hanging at the entrance to the Lowry Grove property as seen Oct. 19 indicates ownership is now taking reservations for folks to move their mobile homes back onto the site. Brad Hoyt, president of the Village LLC, which owns the site, said the land, which was slated for redevelopment until the St. Anthony City Council rejected the site plan, will likely become a manufactured housing community once again. Jesse Poole

The owner of the land once home to Lowry Grove, a manufactured housing community in St. Anthony Village, announced Oct. 13 that the property may very well be made back into a mobile home park.

This startling turn of events comes after the owner’s plan to build a high-density housing development on the site was unanimously rejected by the St. Anthony City Council at its Oct. 10 meeting.

With the announcement, ownership hung a sign at the entrance of the property, located in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue, reading “Reopening Soon Lowry Grove RV Park.”

Not four months after residents were made to vacate the land in anticipation of redevelopment construction, an even newer sign was hung at the entrance Oct. 19. It read, “Taking Reservations.”

 

‘Not what we wanted’

“We’ve made the decision to reopen the Lowry Grove RV Park immediately,” Brad Hoyt, president of The Village, LLC, said in a statement. The Village purchased the land in the summer of 2016 for $6 million. 

Hoyt added, “This is not what we wanted, but the City of St. Anthony and its council left us no choice.”

However, in an Oct. 18 interview, Hoyt said The Village is still working with the city.

“We are hopeful that we can come to some sort of agreement on what is best for the redevelopment of the property,” he said, possibly indicating that the plans aren’t finalized. “We want to be a part of a solution, not a problem.”

According to Hoyt, when the council denied The Village’s plan, it simultaneously “denied any economically viable redevelopment on the property.”

Calling it an opportunity to “generate much needed cash flow,” Hoyt said the mobile home park could reopen by next April, just about two years after Lowry Grove residents were first given notice that the land — their home — would be sold and redeveloped. 

 

Affordable housing

The Village had planned to build five apartment-like buildings on the property and line the northern boundary of the site with two-story townhomes. 

Leading up to its Oct. 10 presentation of its proposal to the city council, The Village scaled back the scope of the project, reducing it from 723 to 615 units, due to concerns expressed by residents regarding the increased density the development would bring to the neighborhood. 

When The Village, an affiliate of Wayzata-based developer Continental Property Group, first bought the land it was filled with nearly 100 mobile and not-so-mobile homes, all of which were either demolished or removed from the land by the end of June.

According to a number of residents and community activists, the land was home to some of the suburb’s most financially vulnerable and racially diverse residents. Due to what those residents and activists call “a lack of affordable housing” in St. Anthony, most Lowry Grove residents had to leave the city, and thus their children had to leave their schools in the school district.  

Asked if those same residents would have first dibs on moving back onto the property, Hoyt said, “We welcome anyone who is interested to apply to live at the park.”

Hoyt confirmed that the property will be affordable: depending on the site, rent could cost anywhere from $450 to $600 per month.

 

‘Dirty work’

The Village’s proposed high-density development was also going to include some affordable housing, via a four-story apartment building that would have had nearly 100 affordable units. 

Hoyt, and others — especially members of the community activist group St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action — have called out the council for not strongly advocating for affordable housing within the city. 

“They used us to do their dirty work, accomplishing their goal of evicting the mobile home and RV residents from St. Anthony,” Hoyt said in his initial statement. “I can only conclude their intent was to discriminate on the basis of race and income.”

St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust did not return multiple calls for comment in response to Hoyt’s allegations against the council.

Others joined in, accusing St. Anthony of being closed off.

“St. Anthony Village has been like a gated community without the gates for 20-plus years,” Amy Dorumsgaard Solberg wrote on SAVCA’s Facebook page in response to this latest news about Lowry Grove. “The gates the city used were over-policing and lack of affordable housing.”

Other residents made similar comments, calling out Hoyt as well. 

“The thing that bothers me the most about Hoyt’s version [of the story] is this idea that the city had him do the ‘dirty work’ of eviction,” Kate Martin wrote on the same Facebook page. “Dude, you have free will ... Ya didn’t have to do it, but you wanted the big payout at the end. You’re not a victim.”

 

Will it last?

Due to this sudden change in plans — coupled with accusations from some that this move is simply a business maneuver to get a more “economically viable” plan approved by the city council — Hoyt was asked if his decision to transform the property back into an RV park is a long-term or temporary plan. 

“If the park reopens it will be open for a significant amount of time,” he said, clarifying that the park would have to be open for no less than a year.   

“Once the first manufactured home moves back onto the site, it will officially be a manufactured home park,” he said. “That means a 12 month closure notice will apply.”

Hoyt also noted that The Village will have to address the property’s dilapidated infrastructure — it’s about 70 years old.

“It is clear there are some improvements that will be needed,” he said. “We will reasses what needs to be done in the spring.” 

 

A long, two-year history 

Initially, Lowry Grove residents contested The Village’s purchase of the 15-acre site, in the summer of 2016. In an effort to keep it as one of the most affordable places to live in the suburb, they attempted to use their right of first refusal, by partnering with equitable housing nonprofit Aeon, to match The Village’s $6 million offer.

According to state law, their offer would have taken precedence over The Village’s. 

However, after determining that the counter offer was not done correctly, the former owner, Lowry Grove Partnership LLP, and The Village went through with their transaction on June 13, 2016. 

Residents protested and marched, and Aeon and residents sued The Village, though in two separate rulings, two judges agreed that the counter offer was not done correctly.

After more than a year of litigation, in an effort to come together, the parties involved in the lawsuit reached a settlement agreement. As part of it, Aeon would own and operate affordable housing on part of the property. 

Aeon would have operated the four-story affordable housing apartment building that was proposed for the property. But all along, according to Aeon president and CEO Alan Arthur, the Minneapolis-based organization was working to maintain the property as affordable housing, which it now may become once again, if not only for a time. 

 

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



 

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