A 42-unit affordable housing complex will be built next to Newport’s new transit station, the first step in an ambitious plan to revive a blighted area of the Washington County city.
The developer of Red Rock Square, a $10 million project, plans to break ground in the spring of 2017, said Melissa Taphorn, deputy executive director for the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).
“It will bring housing and jobs to Newport, but also build on the transit center to increase ridership and help bring along the Red Rock Corridor bus rapid transit line,” said Washington County Commissioner Karla Bigham, who was raised in Cottage Grove but “born and baptized” in Newport.
The route will link Union Depot in St. Paul with Hastings, and include stops at Lower Afton Road, Cottage Grove, Langdon Village and Hastings. Currently Metro Transit buses serve the Newport station, which sits just southwest of where Interstate 494 crosses Hwy. 61.
The three-story apartment complex will be built on the west side of the transit station, which opened in December 2014. MWF Properties, the developer for Red Rock Square, will finance most of the construction privately, aside from publicly funded loans to carry 4 percent of the $10 million cost, Taphorn said.
The full HRA plan, known as Red Rock Crossing, envisions development in four stages around the transit station. A recent market study, Taphorn said, showed that the area could support 500 to 650 family housing units — affordable, market rate and senior — along with 60,000 to 80,000 square feet of office space, and 50,000 to 100,000 square feet of industrial uses.
The redevelopment zone has several existing buildings, some of which are considered “substandard,” Taphorn said. The HRA will continue buying property as it becomes available south of the transit center to make room for new development, she said.
The Red Rock transit line is expected to open in 2021 or 2022. The Red Rock Corridor Commission, which Bigham chairs, has asked the Legislature for $1 million for environmental planning, one of many steps toward full transit operation.
Bigham said Red Rock Crossing would give Newport, a city of about 3,400 residents, an economic jolt that was expected but that never happened when the nearby Wakota Bridge was built over the Mississippi River.
“I’m looking forward to the progress of this development,” she said.