Affordable housing and studio space planned for Minneapolis condo project.
It might offer the opportunity many Northeast artists have long said they wanted: affordable live and work space at a guaranteed, capped rate. Developers of the Jackson Street Artist Affordable Housing building, between 18-1/2 and 19th Avenue NE along Jackson Street, propose to replace six duplexes and three vacant lots with a four story, 39-unit condo building. Units will run from $110,000 to $190,000.
John Vaughn, executive director of NE CDC (Northeast Community Development Corporation), has been working on the project for three years, with developer Jay Nord of Singular Development and the Logan Park Neighborhood Association.
“Studies show that low income artists are most at risk for displacement,” Vaughn said. “A lot of this building’s purpose is to mitigate that.”
The units will have open spaces, with high ceilings, wide doors, good light and high quality air exchange systems, he added. They will also be handicap accessible. There will be a large arts production studio, a rooftop garden and a meeting room that can also be used as an art gallery.
Flannery Construction is the development partner for financing and project development; Vaughn said the company specializes in green (environmentally focused) construction projects. If all goes well, a local bank might be financing the land acquisition, which includes five properties formerly owned by the late John Surma. Vaughn said the present housing stock includes “seriously blighted rental duplexes.” Most of the tenants have already been relocated, he said.
Vaughn said he started working on the project in 2004, when the NE CDC board gave him some guidelines. “They wanted to be more like the old-time community development corporations of the 1960s, and work from the neighborhood up. They also wanted to do a fairly large project. We felt we were a couple of years behind the growth curve.”
He started looking for property on Central Avenue, he said, first considering the 1401 Central site, which had already been spoken for by Locus Architecture; then the future Porky’s site south of the 2nd Precinct police station, before the owner put it up for sale. When Coldwell Banker offered NE CDC $5,000 for a market feasibility study, NE CDC hired Maxfield Research, which concluded that an artists’ housing development would be well received in the Northeast community.
After that, Surma’s attorney contacted Vaughn about possibly purchasing the properties. “We decided to try and make a go of it. We have been able to purchase all the Surma properties. Another privately owned property at 907 19th Ave. NE has a willing seller; the city has agreed to buy it under the Higher Density Corridor Housing Acquisition Program, demolish it, do the pollution clean up and relocate the tenants.
The city also owns the vacant, unbuildable lot at 914 19th, which is included in the project. Vaughn said the Surma lots cost $730,000 and the NE CDC spent $100,000 relocating tenants. They have completed Phase 1 of the pollution clean up.
The pre-development budget is $1.577 million, which they have already raised. That includes $100,000 from Hennepin County to demolish the properties as soon as they get permission from the City of Minneapolis.
“We’re pretty much ready to build,” Vaughn said.
Other members of the development and management team include Mike Pollock, architect with Pollock Buchanan; Jim Gabler of Gabler Housing Solutions; attorney Shaun McElhatton (counsel to the developer) and Elizabeth Giese of Old Republic Title. “And we would not be anywhere without GMHC [Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation], who gave us a $550,000 pre-development loan. LISC [Local Initiatives Support Corporation] has $100,000 into the project as well.”
Although the concept drawing is in color, the actual colors of the building have not yet been decided, he added. “We’re going to have a community coloring contest, sponsored by Hirschfield’s,” Vaughn said.
The next step is the bid process, seeking a general contractor and project manager. There will be a condo association, and possibly, if NEMAA (North East Minneapolis Artists Association) agrees, an artists in residence program. NE CDC is working with City of Lakes Community Land Trust on ways to make the building permanently affordable to artists.
Vaughn said his optimistic timeline will be to begin construction by next summer, although spring 2009 might be a more realistic start, with completion by the end of that year.
“We are hoping for demolition ASAP. I have the money and the lender’s permission. The buildings are horrible, as bad or worse than anything I ever saw working on the east side of St. Paul.”
Vaughn and Nord started taking reservations for the condos at this year’s Art-A-Whirl. “It’s a first come, first respond system. Thirty-two people wanted to get on the list.”