Affordable housing project pitched next to Lowry Grove redevelopment


Courtesy of Google Maps • A 70-unit affordable housing development was presented to the St. Anthony community May 7 at the Bremer Bank site near the former Lowry Grove mobile home park. Aeon, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit affordable housing developer, presented the plan.

Aeon, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit affordable housing developer, has been involved in St. Anthony affordable housing, to varying degrees, since the purchase of the Lowry Grove mobile home park two years ago and the ensuing redevelopment proposals by new site owners The Village, LLC. 

On May 7, Aeon reentered the fold to propose a 70-unit affordable housing development at 2401 Lowry Ave. NE in St. Anthony, the current Bremer Bank site, which neighbors the former Lowry Grove mobile park, according to a release by the city. The developer’s proposal happened after press time for this edition of the paper.

As part of the proposal, Bremer Bank will continue to operate in a newly constructed “standalone building,” the release said, that will have housing above the bank.

The proposal is preliminary, Blake Hopkins, Aeon’s vice president of housing development, stressed in an interview. He said the “extremely early” plans are for a four-story building that can “comfortably” fit 70 units and a 2,500-square-foot Bremer Bank branch. 

The proposal at the community center was the first opportunity for Aeon to present its concept to the community. 

Hopkins said Aeon has been active in St. Anthony for the last two years or so, pursuing some form of affordable housing development. The organization was looking to develop affordable housing through a partnership with The Village. 

“That opportunity fell through,” said Hopkins, adding that Aeon did keep ambitions for St. Anthony affordable housing on the “back burner.” 

 

Working to replace affordable units

Aeon first became involved in St. Anthony affordable housing when Lowry Grove was sold in summer 2016, when the organization united with residents to try and buy the land through a little-used Minnesota statute granting mobile park residents the right of first refusal when a buyer makes a bid for a park. 

The Village offered $6 million. Aeon and the residents matched the offer, though nevertheless, the land was sold to The Village. Subsequent lawsuits over the sale failed.

Teaming up with Aeon once more, Lowry Grove residents sued The Village for how it acquired Lowry Grove, and that lawsuit was settled.

The settlement had a clause agreeing to allow Aeon to buy two acres of the project site for creating affordable housing, if a redevelopment plan was approved by the St. Anthony City Council. The Lowry Grove park was one of the most affordable housing options in the city.

But the clause was predicated on the overall plan getting past the St. Anthony council. 

The St. Anthony council unanimously voted down The Village’s first Lowry Grove proposal at its Oct. 10 meeting, citing staff concerns about density expressed by residents during prior community and council meetings. After the rejection of this Aeon-involved plan, Aeon was not involved in subsequent plans. 

Outside of density, affordable housing was the other major concern voiced in previous community and council meetings. 

From the October proposal to another in November, affordable housing units went down from 97 to 51 in the Village’s plans. The November plan designated the neighboring Bremer Bank site as the potential location for affordable housing. 

An updated February plan for the site did not include the Bremer Bank site.

The St. Anthony City Council approved the latest redevelopment plans for the former Lowry Grove, now being called the Kenzie Terrace & Stinson Parkway development, at its March 27 meeting. 

But City Manager Mark Casey, at the March meeting, said he and staff had conversations with Aeon, and affordable housing was maybe back in the mix. 

The city’s announcement of Aeon’s 70-unit affordable housing development proposal was released April 30. 

Hopkins said he planned to make the presentation with a project manager and architect from Minneapolis-based firm Urbanworks.

 

— Solomon Gustavo

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