The first market-rate apartment project in 25 years is taking shape in Coon Rapids, steps away from the Northstar commuter rail station.

With construction equipment rumbling in the background, a group of city leaders, Anoka County officials and developers tossed the first ceremonial shovelfuls of sandy soil last week as crews got to work on the 251-unit project.

“Coon Rapids really needs this project,” Mayor Jerry Koch said at the Oct. 25 groundbreaking event. “It’s a great fit.”

The $59 million project from Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates marks one of a growing number of developments taking root along the 40-mile Northstar line, which runs between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis with stops in Elk River, Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley.

City officials along the line say interest is growing in building near transit hubs.

In Ramsey, at least four separate projects blocks away from the Northstar station are bringing a mix of market-rate senior apartments, affordable housing and townhouses to the COR, the city’s downtown development district.

In Fridley, Sherman Associates wants to build a 267-unit apartment project spanning three buildings on an 11-acre site next to the train station. Nearby, a new market-rate apartment complex dubbed “The Cielo” — the first project of its kind in the suburb since 1988 — is just a short walk from the train, at University Avenue NE. and 61st Avenue NE.

“It’s an asset that you want to make available to people,” said Fridley City Manager Wally Wysopal.

In Coon Rapids, two four-story apartment buildings along Northdale Boulevard will soon rise on vacant land purchased by Sherman Associates from the city for $1.5 million earlier this year.

One building will offer 180 market-rate apartments with a mix of studio, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom options. Rents will range from $900 to about $2,000, said Will Anderson, a developer for Sherman Associates.

The second building will have 71 units in a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments.

Forty-eight units will be affordable to those living at 50 percent of the area median income, or those earning up to $47,150 for a family of four, according to Metropolitan Council figures.

The developer also will rent seven units of “supportive housing” under a state program for families at risk of homelessness through a partnership with Anoka County, Anderson said.

The mixed-income building is expected to open next October, with the market-rate building opening in early 2020, according to the developer.

The new development marks the first phase of a broader vision for the Coon Rapids site, which sits next to Riverdale Station and near the Riverdale Commons shopping center. The second phase includes plans to add senior apartments.

For years, the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority owned the 15-acre site before the county sold the property to the city of Coon Rapids for $2.3 million.

“It sat vacant,” County Commissioner Scott Schulte said. “It just never really blossomed.”

The county and city waited to complete the land deal until they found the right developer, he said.

“This was all about cooperation and getting things done,” Schulte said at the recent groundbreaking. “In the end, the puzzle pieces all fit.”