Hopkins development

Developer Doran bets on Hopkins, LRT

Kelly Doran, one busy developer-builder since the Great Recession of 2008-09, breaks ground Monday on “The Moline” in Hopkins.

The 241-unit luxury apartment project, about a $50 million deal from acquisition through construction, will be built on the site of a 1960s-vintage warehouse/office development, at Eighth Street and Excelsior Boulevard. It’s adjacent to the former Minneapolis Moline tractor plant.

It’s a play for increased housing density in the growing loop area of a small town-turned-suburb that once had train service to Minneapolis.

It also plays on the controversial Southwest light rail transit line (LRT). The proposed line may die if the Minnesota Legislature does not appropriate $135 million this month to qualify for $895 million in federal matching funds for the 14.5-mile line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, at a hefty price of $1.8 billion.

“I like Hopkins … and I probably would have done this project anyway,” Doran said last week. “But LRT would be a huge positive contributor. And this project alone will generate four times the property taxes [of the previous structures].

“I’m also buying the Calhoun Village Shopping center on Lake Street, in Minneapolis … because it’s near the LRT route. I think LRT will be heavily used and create a lot of development. I hope the politicians are smart enough to fund it. The ripple effects will be huge.”

Doran, who estimates that he’s worked on $1 billion worth of projects since 2009, mostly around the University of Minnesota and downtown, is focused lately on a $90 million residential project in Brooklyn Park and a $150 million, phased-over-years development in Maple Grove.

The Hopkins Moline project will include a 4,000-square-foot exhibit of restored Moline farm tractors.
NEAL ST. ANTHONY

Hospitals

Merger means some free ambulance service

Next year’s merger of two hospitals in Anoka County will have one clear financial impact for patients: Some ambulance rides will be on the house.

The Minneapolis-based Allina Health System will merge under one license Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.

Starting next year, the smaller medical center in Fridley will be known as “Mercy Hospital — Unity Campus.”

Currently, if a person receiving inpatient care at Unity must be transferred for inpatient services at Mercy, the patient typically is charged a fee for the ambulance transport, Allina officials said. Those fees vanish once the two hospitals become one.

“We are obliged to charge them for an ambulance fee between the two hospitals,” Sara Criger, the president of Mercy Hospital, said during an interview. “We won’t have to do that in the future, so that will be a real plus for the community.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how often patients currently are shuttled between the hospitals for services. Theoretically, there could be more transports in the future, since Allina is trying to reduce service duplication between the two campuses.

Last year, Allina moved maternity services from Unity to Mercy, and the health system is spending $17.5 million to renovate space at Unity so that mental health services can move in the other direction.

David Kanihan, an Allina exec, said by e-mail that the dropped ambulance charges fit with other changes: “The patient will not be discharged from one and then readmitted to the other, as occurs today. This will make things simpler for the patient when it comes to billing, insurance, etc.”
Christopher Snowbeck

Energy

Minneapolis flips the solar switch

The city of Minneapolis has signed subscription agreements with four “solar garden” operators for 7.5 million kilowatt-hours of solar energy, or about 7 percent of annual electricity consumption.

Minneapolis estimates it will save $28,000 in electricity costs in the first year by getting more in bill credits than it pays in subscription costs.

Community solar gardens are centrally located solar-electric systems that provide juice to the electric grid.

Led by the Metropolitan Council, 31 participating metro-area governments procured solar garden subscriptions from a unified bidding process. This supported solar development and saved money through the bulk bid, as well as hedging future electric price volatility, supporters said.

Private developers finance, build and operate community solar gardens. In the Minneapolis deal, the solar garden operators will send 7.5 million kilowatt-hours of solar electricity annually to Xcel Energy at no cost. Xcel provides electricity to the city, which pays Xcel. Xcel also provides a bill credit, a subsidy, for the electricity that the city gets from the solar garden.

The city also will pay a subscription cost to the solar garden operators.

Since late 2014, Minneapolis-based Xcel, which has been criticized for moving too slowly, has reviewed about 1,000 applications from solar developers. About 150 megawatts’ worth of projects are in design and construction.
Neal St. Anthony