Lowry Grove developer scraps redevelopment, sues St. Anthony


file photo • With redevelopment plans on the skids, the owner of the Lowry Grove site in St. Anthony is suing the city for fraud, adding to the fallout of the sale of the former mobile home park.

The owner of the former Lowry Grove mobile home park in St. Anthony has scrapped planned redevelopment that’s been years in the making.

Further, Brad Hoyt, head of The Village, LLC, which owns the site, is suing the City of St. Anthony for fraud and seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Hoyt said in an interview that he also once again plans to reopen the site as a trailer park, and is currently taking reservations.

 

Fraud lawsuit

Hoyt filed a fraud case in federal court Aug. 20 against the City of St. Anthony, Mayor Jerry Faust, City Manager Mark Casey, City Attorney Jay Lindgren, City Planner Breanne Rothstein and advisor to the city Stacie Kvilvang, as well as the companies for which Rothstein and Kvilvang work.

“They set me up,” said Hoyt, who claims the city tricked him into believing the Lowry Grove site was ripe for high-density redevelopment so he would buy and then clear the mobile park. 

The 70-year-old mobile home park was sold to Continental Property Group in April 2016. With the working name The Village, the new owners pushed a plan including more than 700 housing units that was met with resistance from residents over concerns with its density. A pared-down plan was rejected by the St. Anthony City Council in Oct. 2017, causing Hoyt to claim he was going to repoen the site as a trailer park, though a later revised redevelopment plan was ultimately accepted by the city.

Hoyt claims the city administration carried out a conspiracy in order to “get rid of their brown people,” specifically blacks and Latinxs. He claimed the plan was led by Lindgren and propagated by false information that Faust, Casey and Rothstein fed to him. For their individual roles, Hoyt said he listed them individually in the lawsuit because he wants “them held publicly accountable for what they did.”

A statement from the City of St. Anthony said the lawsuit is without merit. 

“Mr. Hoyt apparently made a horrible real estate transaction that displaced hundreds of vulnerable people and now wants to shift his losses to the city, which is wrong and irresponsible.”

The city said it will “vigorously defend this ridiculous lawsuit and cannot provide further comment at this time due to active litigation.”

Hoyt’s suit states that his company “relied on the truth of the representations made by the City” by its manager and planner, Casey and Rothstein. 

Before the park closed on June 30, 2017, while the city and The Village were in negotiations, Hoyt said he, Casey and Rothstein were talking regularly. The lawsuit claims the developer asked the city if there were limits on the proposal and city staff said they “did not want to constrain the design,” and requested the developer determine the most units that could work on the site so the city could check if the infrastructure could hold that many units, or would need improvements. 

Hoyt said he and his company were “shell shocked” to learn the council rejected the initial proposal.

“They are pathological liars,” said Hoyt of the council and city administration, “all of them.”

Hoyt said he’s invested over $11 million into the project — including some $100,000 to help roughly half of the former residents to relocate — and he wants his money back from the city.

 

An ongoing saga

The lawsuit against the city is only the latest chapter in what has been an ongoing drama since the park was sold.

Following the park’s sale in April 2016, residents attempted to block the sale by using their “right of first refusal” as laid out in state law and put together a counter purchase agreement with assistance from Minneapolis-based housing non-profit Aeon.

The counter offer was dismissed by the buyer and seller when both claimed it did not meet all the criteria required by Minnesota state staute. Following rounds of lawsuits, judges agreed.

Lowry Grove closed the following year forcing some 100 households to clear the 15-acres of valuable real estate on the border of Minneapolis.

The St. Anthony council unanimously voted down The Village’s first Lowry Grove redevelopment proposal at its Oct. 10, 2017 meeting. St. Anthony city staff recommended rejecting the plan over the same concerns about density expressed by residents during prior community and council meetings.

Within weeks of the first redevelopment stall, the site owners raised a sign at the park that said Lowry Grove would soon reopen and invited people to call for reservations. 

In a November 2017 statement, Hoyt said he wasn’t planning to sue the city at that time.

It was the first time he said the city council had used his company to “do their dirty work.” 

He also said he was confident both sides would come to an understanding and said The Village and the city were working “in good faith.”

The Village presented the city council with scaled-down proposals in November 2017 and February 2018. The plan from early this year ended up being roughly 40 precent smaller than the initial plan, down to 414 units, addressing concerns about density.

Another major concern expressed in previous community and council meetings was affordable housing — Lowry Grove was some of the least expensive housing in the city. Initial redevelopment plans included nearly 100 affordable housing units, though through each revision the number of affordable units dwindled until none were included.

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. 

At that meeting Faust said the city should “move forward” with the project.

 

Claim of racism, regret

Hoyt said that since last summer when Lowry Grove closed he thinks he was manipulated into doing the city’s dirty work.

“The day we got the park closed, that’s when I arrived at my opinion,” he said. “Jerry Faust is a fascist. His city council are racists.”

He said he bases his opinion on a pattern of conduct over the course of his interactions with the city, as well as a broader history of the city under Faust, including a federal lawsuit against the city over its rejection of plans for an Islamic center, and the city’s reaction to one of its police officers shooting and killing Philando Castile, a black man stopped for a broken taillight, in July 2016.

“Now, this is more than just a coincidence,” said Hoyt, adding later with respect to the park’s closure and its effects on the people, “The fact I played a role, unwittingly, haunts me 24/7. 

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

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