Pensions help fund renovation of Minneapolis high-rise

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Union pension funds are a major component of the financing package for the $132 million renovation and refinancing of the 1,303-unit Riverside Plaza high-rise apartment complex in Minneapolis. The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, which is investing $50 million, is one of 20 public and private entities providing financing — including Google. “It’s about greening the building and maintaining Riverside Plaza as quality affordable housing,” said George Sherman, president of Sherman Associates, owner of Riverside Plaza since 1980.

Seven years in planning, renovation work began in February and will continue to the end of 2012.

Leading a tour before an April 27 ground-breaking ceremony, Sherman estimated that the $65 million renovation project would involve “about 600 different union trades workers over the life of the project.”

All construction work will be performed under collective bargaining agreements with local building trades unions. Renovation plans include new heating systems, new windows, all-new plumbing, and a new sprinkler system.

“We have about 100 plumbers working here at any one time,” Sherman said.

The jobs are welcome indeed. “In some of our unions, we have as much as 40 percent unemployment,” said Scott Gale, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, speaking at the April 27 ground-breaking.

Gale highlighted the close collaboration between the HIT and the contractor, Knutson Construction. “It will take the best of each of us to create the best for all of us,” he said.

“We’re only here today because of strong partnerships between labor and business and everybody here today,” said Adam Duininck, political director of Operating Engineers Local 49, representing the Metropolitan Council at the ground-breaking.

Steve Share edits The Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.

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