Salem and Lyndale Churches announce redevelopment plan

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Complex development plan will yield home for two churches, independent retailers and homeowners.

Salem English Lutheran Church and Lyndale United Church of Christ (LUCC) have announced the selection of Brighton Development Corporation to redevelop the Salem property at 28th Street and Lyndale Avenue into a mixed-use project. Few details have been decided, as the churches and developers begin to untangle the financial, legal and logistical realities of buying and selling multiple properties, and building a project with two congregations as owners. Each church owns its own property, but they currently share the LUCC building. They are working together on the redevelopment project.

The preliminary plan preserves the potentially-historic1904 limestone church structure on Garfield Avenue at 28th Street. The new construction will include unique, locally-owned retail shops, market-rate small condominiums and underground and surface parking. Once the project is completed, LUCC plans to sell its building at Aldrich Avenue and 31st Street, and both groups will move to the renovated building. They will create a common ministry center that will house the two congregations permanently.

“Brighton listens to us, they know the city, and they have done some really great projects in the city,” said Jen Nagel, pastoral minister of Salem Church, discussing the choice. “We turned down a CVS Pharmacy and other large national developers. We opted for developers who choose independent, unique retail, and who can build owner-occupied housing at multiple price points.”

Don Portwood, pastor of LUCC, agrees. “Some people looked at the property and said nothing can be done. Brighton came right in and knew what to do. They are an excellent developer who has done a lot of re-habbing of old buildings.”

Over the past few years, as both churches faced dwindling populations and diminishing funds to maintain old, sometimes crumbling buildings, they joined forces in order to stay in the area. Salem moved to the Lyndale/Salem building in November 2006. While remaining separate congregations, they share space and expenses. This arrangement was planned to be temporary, until they can redevelop the Salem site and sell the LUCC site.

Salem initially worked with Common Bond Communities, a non-profit provider of affordable housing. That first plan proposed to raze the buildings to build a new building that could house the church and residences, but the Whittier neighborhood objected to the destruction of the old part of the church, and to the addition of rental property in the neighborhood. They prefer owner-occupied housing.

“We listened to the neighbors’ concerns, and they have listened to us,” said Nagel. “I’m hopeful we can keep doing that.” Community meetings will be held this fall.

Brighton Development Corporation will manage the project, working with Urban Anthology and The Ackerberg Group to develop the retail spaces.

Brighton is well-known for its award-winning work on the riverfront in downtown Minneapolis in the Historic Mills District. Projects include the Mill City Museum/Stone Arch Office, the North Star Lofts, Humboldt Lofts and the Washburn Lofts. (www.brightondevelopment.com)

Urban Anthology is a commercial real estate brokerage and development company. The Ackerberg Group is a local real estate services company. They have developed projects in the Uptown area: Mozaic, Lake Calhoun City Apartments and Lumen on Lagoon.

Since selection, Brighton is studying the financial feasibility of the concept. After a 90-day study, the churches will decide if this proposal is feasible. If so, it will go forward with an estimated completion in late 2010.

“We are having fun right now,” said Nagel. While at first there was grief over the change from being in their own space to becoming partner/renters at LUCC, she says it has been a positive experience. “It’s exciting. We have a vitality together. The spirit is alive and active.” Portwood echoes this thought using the same words. “It has gone shockingly well,” he said. “We’ve had so few issues. It’s fun.”

Both congregations remain engaged with the community, and plan to remain an active part of the Lyn-Lake area, whether a little southwest of the intersection or a little north of it.

Mary Ann Knox lives in CARAG.