New Brighton narrows Korean Church redevelopment preferences


file photo • New Brighton has narrowed its redevelopment preference for the Korean United Methodist Church site, which the city bought last year for $1.9 million, targeting senior and affordable housing and owner-occupied townhomes.

The New Brighton Economic Development Commission on May 23 narrowed its preference of what will happen to the city-owned defunct Korean United Methodist Church site, approving discussions with developers that can specifically deliver a hybrid project of both owner-occupied townhomes and affordable rentals. 

Since a city staff team-building retreat in January, New Brighton has been in contact with developers interested in the redevelopment, according to the New Brighton City Council’s Feb. 2 workshop memo. 

The former church, located in the 700 block of Eighth Avenue NW, had been on sale since 2015. The city council submitted a $1.9 million bid for the site in August with plans to raze the 35,000-square-foot church that was built in 1940.

The city council unanimously decided to submit an offer because, according to city documents, the property has appeared in Old Highway 8 corridor studies dating back to the late-1980s as having potential for redevelopment.

The city has focused on developers that specialize in multi-family, market rate, senior and affordable housing. But staff has also reached out to developers known for single-family homes and attached and detached townhomes, to “ensure the outreach includes all types of housing” in the hopes of finding “a legitimate redevelopment partner,” according to the memo. 

In a memo for the May 23 special Economic Development Commission meeting, the city says it has had difficulty narrowing down nine “viable” concept proposals. In order to move forward, the commission tried a ranking system.

The exercise yielded preferences for affordable family housing, affordable 55-plus/senior housing, and owner-occupied townhomes. The ranking system, the commission memo says, reaffirmed city council goals of affordability, 55-plus/senior housing, mixed-income housing and varying density, as laid out at the January retreat. 

The commission ranking also found a preference for providing the lowest amount of tax increment financing, or TIF, which would “automatically rule out a market rate rental project,” the memo says. Single-family homes werre also eliminated as an option because, says city staff, the unit count would be too low to achieve financial goals for market value and land sale proceeds. 

Before making a recommendation to city council, the commission received a recommendation from city staff for a developer that is “capable of delivering both” affordable and senior housing, with owner-occupied townhomes as well. 

Concept proposals with both affordable and senior housing narrows choices to two developers, and only one developer’s proposal had all three preferences. 

City staffers say a recommendation for a specific developer will require going back to the developer pool to see if any has the flexibility to fit the recommended project mix of affordable and senior housing with owner-occupied townhomes. 

The commission passed a motion for discussing a hybrid model of owner-occupied townhomes and affordable rentals with developers Pulte & Schuett Companies Inc. and Dominium. 

 

— Solomon Gustavo

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