A group led by Twin Cities developer Devean George is taking the latest shot at bringing long-sought market-rate apartments to a high-profile site in Brooklyn Center, not far from the Shingle Creek Crossing retail center.
A redevelopment concept plan from an entity called CGG Holdings, fronted by George, has garnered enough support from city officials to land an exclusive negotiation window on building out the 32-acre southern portion of the Opportunity Site — a city-owned vacant parcel just west of Hwy. 100 that once housed Brookdale Ford and the Brookdale Square shopping center.
The window lasts through Feb. 13 and gives the George group a chance to line up the financing needed to execute a formal development agreement and an expected $6.9 million tax increment financing package.
If successful, the first phase of the build-out would be a 200-unit market-rate apartment building along Bass Lake Road between Hwy. 100 and Shingle Creek Parkway.
It was the third development pitch received by city officials for the site in 2016, indicating that the boom market for suburban apartment development has reached Brooklyn Center. Minneapolis-based Brummer Properties and Sand Cos. of St. Cloud also expressed interest, but neither of those proposals have yet advanced. The Sand Cos. plan stalled due to lack of financing just before a formal agreement was to be signed last summer, according to city documents.
Proponents say bringing new housing to the Opportunity Site can be a linchpin in the city’s larger efforts to build on the success of the nearby Shingle Creek Crossing, which itself was a redevelopment of the shuttered Brookdale Mall.
“A housing plan on the Opportunity Site will enhance the interest of more businesses locating at Shingle Creek Crossing, and more retail development at Shingle Creek will likewise spur more interest in housing,” said Brooklyn Center City Council Member Dan Ryan.
George, 39, has been hailed as a hometown hero who made it big in the NBA and then returned to his north Minneapolis roots as a community organizer and nonprofit housing developer.
A 6-foot-8 forward, George starred at Benilde-St. Margaret High School and Augsburg College before being selected by the Lakers in the first round of the 1999 NBA draft. The team won NBA championships in each of his first three seasons in the league.
Following his retirement from basketball in 2010, George returned to Minneapolis and founded the nonprofit group Building Blocks, whose stated aim is helping North Side families by focusing on “a combination of housing, mentoring and educational programming.”
After working to rehabilitate individual homes and apartments, Building Blocks in 2012 proposed Commons on Penn, a 47-unit affordable housing apartment complex at 2201 Golden Valley Road. It opened in 2015 after receiving financial assistance from the city, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and several philanthropic donors.
George’s proposal for the Brooklyn Center site, however, is much different. Rather than a modest 47 units, it is for potentially up to 535 units, and rather than affordable housing, the pitch is for market-rate housing, which city officials are seeking to provide a now-lacking “move-up” option for city renters.
Following a first phase of 200 units, later phases call for as many as 275 more apartments (including an unspecified number of independent living senior units), 60 “terrace courtyard” townhouses, a future performing arts center and a brewpub/restaurant.
Aside from HGA Architects, it is unclear from submitted documents who is partnering with George on the Opportunity Site proposal. Calls for comment to his firm — Wayzata-based George Group North — were not returned.
George, however, is associated with some well-known names in the local development industry. Bill Beard of the Beard Group and Archie Givens of Legacy Management and Development, both of whom have successful histories as builders, have served on the board of Building Blocks. George also partnered with Beard on a housing development in downtown Hopkins.
Don Jacobson is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He is a former editor of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Real Estate Journal.