New affordable housing development strives to meet community needs


“I think that it symbolizes a new kind of urban development,” said developer Dale Joel recently about the soon-to-be-realized redevelopment of the Purina Mill site on the southeast corner of 38th Street and Hiawatha Avenue. “It mixes affordable housing, transit, retail, employment and environmental values in an attempt to satisfy the needs of the neighborhood with the vision of the city,” Joel said.

The redevelopment of the property is underway.

A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between the Longfellow Community Council and Longfellow Station LLC, a limited liability company that will own and control the development, has been signed.

An open house on June 4 at Bracket Park celebrated the announcement with food and beverages, a review of the final version of the CBA and an introduction to the most recent Longfellow Station plans with all the latest available information.

“I came up with the idea three years ago,” said Joel, whose St. Paul entrepreneurial firm, Capital Growth Real Estate, designed site plans in conjunction with representatives of the neighborhood. According to Joel, new construction will include 197 rental units, 115, or around 60 percent, of which will be affordable housing as defined by the state—rent which requires not more than 30 percent of a family or individual’s gross income at or below 50 percent of the Metropolitan Area Median Income (MMI). According to figures provided by the Metropolitan Council, the area median income for the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul area this year, adjusted by HUD and applicable to a family of four, is $80,900.

According to the Met, monthly gross rent including tenant-paid utilities, affordable at 50 percent of area median income for a four-bedroom apartment is $1,172 a month. With the same criteria, two bedrooms would rent for $910 a month and a one bedroom would go for $758 a month.

The four-story unit will include 40,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the ground floor. According to the signed CBA, preferred businesses identified by the community include a small grocery store, retail merchandise, health care and wellness services, restaurants and cafes—especially offering live music, office space and light manufacturing. Desired business types will be small local businesses rather than chains, walkable, neighborhood-serving businesses accessible from the sidewalk that offer living-wage jobs.

And, although underground parking is part of the plan, the new site is intended as a model of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), especially pertinent to its location because of its proximity to the 38th Street light rail station. The CBA calls for “inviting pedestrian access from the east side of Hiawatha to the station.”

“Part of our marketing strategy to prospective renters is to offer one month of rail passes,” said Joel. Other alternative transit amenities, according to Joel, will include bicycle storage and a rental car for those who don’t own a car.

Green is another theme of the site, with an environmentally friendly design symbolically represented by green-colored roofs.

“We’ll have outdoor spaces, vegetation on the roofs, energy efficient appliances and an internal self-contained storm water system so storm water won’t be put untreated into the city system,” said Joel. “Windows will have low E glass, window treatments with ultra thin metallic coating in the glass that can help stop heat loss, and we’ll use recycled building material wherever we can. We’re looking into solar panels as fuel for hot water inside the apartments,” Joel said.

“Developments like this have two paths,” said Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) Project Coordinator Mark Garner, “securing community support and formal plan approval—the part that includes satisfying the regulatory authority and the securing of financing,” Garner said.

“I believe the regulatory stuff is pretty much done,” said CPED Senior Project Coordinator Jerry LePage. “Finance is a very big piece,” LePage said.

“There have been a variety of grants (totaling several million dollars, according to documents available from the City of Minneapolis) from the city, county, state and the met council,” said Joel. “Next we’re finalizing the numbers for tax increment financing,” Joel said.

“At this point what’s most optimistic is we may very well have a closing this year,” said LePage. “That means that project work—demolition and clearing of the land—could begin as early as year’s end,” LePage said.