New senior facility in West St. Paul coming closer to reality


submitted rendering • The West St. Paul City Council continues to clear the way for a new 172-unit independent senior living facility that’s likely to be built at the same location as the DARTS campus. With resolutions for the project passed June 25, the council will take up zoning issues related to it July 9.

After getting the initial green light at the end of May, a new senior facility in West St. Paul passed more tests on its way to becoming a reality. The West St. Paul City Council unanimously approved at its June 25 meeting a series of permit and plan resolutions to clear the way for the new facility.

 

New living options

Jim Hartshorn, city development director, said the new development would be a four-story, 172-unit independent senior living facility at 1631/1645 Marthaler Lane. 

Hartshorn said that according to Dakota County’s Community Development Agency, there is a waiting list in West St. Paul of 750 people for this type of senior housing.

Patrick Ostrom, from developer Real Estate Equities, said the facility’s rent would be approximately 50 to 60 percent of what other independent senior housing facilities, with a comparable market rate, charge. There would be income requirements for those who would live at the facility, based on 60 percent of the area median income, and the rents that management would be allowed to charge would be restricted by calculations done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The new facility would be on a newly created 2.93-acre property owned by DARTS, Inc., a nonprofit that supports older adults.

An existing building on the property is currently occupied by DARTS, which would continue to operate out of it.

 

Walkability in area 

The planning commission brought up issues of pedestrian crossing in the area of the project, and there is a proposed pedestrian crossing to the north side of Wentworth Avenue. Sidewalks are also being proposed to come all the way into the proposed facility on the south side of Wentworth and the west side Marthaler Lane. 

Hartshorn said the project should have a minimal impact to the efficiency of surrounding roadways. 

Mayor Jenny Halverson asked if there were plans by the county to put in a sidewalk along the south side of Wentworth. Public Works Director Ross Beckwith said the city is planning on applying for a federal grant to put a sidewalk in from Robert Street to the roundabout. That project would be part of a 2022 grant project. 

Ostrom said if city sidewalks fall through, the developer would be willing to work with Walmart to extend sidewalks down to get a better connection.

 

How dense is too dense

Hartshorn said when the planning commission met on this project it was also concerned with the density at the site being out of character for West St. Paul.

He added that when city staffers first heard of the number of units planned for the development, they didn’t like it either. While they would have liked to see a couple fewer units in plans, after reviewing the project, staffers felt there was a lot of comparables presented by the developer that showed that this type of project is common.

Halverson said the issue of density makes her a little concerned because of staff “balking” at it at first. 

“This is one of those things where I always question why are we so quick to jump over and say it’s okay,” she said.

She added that while she isn’t arguing against the project, if the density is an issue, then it’s an issue. 

Council member Anthony Fernandez, who is the council’s planning commission liaison, said his take is the density could work. Fernandez said the city is getting more of an urban feel, especially around Robert Street, and that he doesn’t see this development being a “massive disrupter” in the area. 

“If we take away the density, then we’re really taking away the project,” Fernandez said. 

Council member John Bellows said while the density is high, it is not unusually high for this kind of facility, which will have active adults. 

Council member Dave Napier said he was skeptical of the project from the beginning because of the density, as well as the location, though he said he thinks the building could be a nice amenity in the community. 

 

Public hearing 

Jerry Daily, who lives in Lakeville and is a board member of the nonprofit Metropolitan Interfaith Council for Affordable Housing, said MICAH supports the project. One byproduct of it is that when seniors move to such facilities, he said, their homes become open.

“There is a lack of homes for first-time homebuyers in this area, and it would be a natural progression for young families coming to West St. Paul to have more options when they consider buying a home,” Daily said.   

Brenda Apfelbacher, who serves on DARTS’ board of directors and is a previous commissioner for the county’s community development agency, said she couldn’t stress enough the site’s high walkability score. She said this score is important for seniors, and these types of sites aren’t available all the time. 

“If you let this go, it would be really sad because I don’t think you’ll find another site with the features that make it so close to Robert Street and for the seniors,” Apfelbacher said, adding many of the people living in the complex would be busy, working seniors.

A final reading for the rezoning of the property will come before the council on July 9.

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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