1st transit village near LRT gets jump-start

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 - 9:48 PM

Minneapolis schools ready to sell Hiawatha-Lake site to Hennepin County for long-awaited development.

School board members in Minneapolis are ready to sell a key district-owned building at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue S. in a deal that clears the way for the first mixed-use transit village along the metro area’s first light-rail line.

The board authorized the sale to Hennepin County for about $8 million Tuesday night in exchange for assurance that two student programs can be housed there for up to eight more years. Some final details need to be negotiated, but school officials hope for a closing in three or four months.

The sale of 2225 E. Lake St., once occupied by Brown Institute and later Anishinabe Academy, would open the way for a complex with several types of housing, a county service hub, other offices and retail space and a long-term home for the Midtown Farmers Market, just steps from the Blue Line.

Hennepin County stepped in as a buyer for the site after the collapse of earlier efforts to reach a deal between the school district and a private developer. The county hasn’t taken a formal vote to buy the site, pending completion of negotiations, but sees it as a South Side center to serve county residents as part of its decentralization of human services.

Alondra Cano, the area’s City Council member, called the county’s involvement key to moving the sale ahead.

“It’s starting to look pretty real,” said Eric Gustafson, executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, which long has advocated redevelopment of the Brown site.

New home for programs

The school board also set a late August deadline to find a new location for two key student programs: the adult basic education program for South Side students and Transition Plus, which prepares older special education students for work and independent living. The basic education program has been using the building, and Transition Plus students were to move there next year

The sale approval also commits the district to securing a building for those programs by mid-2017. The district said it is looking elsewhere in the Hiawatha-Lake area, focusing on the half-block between South High School’s athletic field and Lake Street, directly west of the Midtown YWCA. The district also has discussed moving its South Side enrollment center to the area.

Once a sale is negotiated, the county likely would resell all or much of the site to the eventual developer. L&H Station Development has proposed hundreds of units of market-rate and income-subsidized housing, 100,000 square feet of office space for the county and other tenants and 10,000 square feet of retail on the 6.4-acre site. That’s a parcel roughly 2½ times the size of Target Field’s turf.

Previous deal undone

The district’s previous effort to reach a deal with L&H foundered after it failed to find alternative space in the area it considered affordable for the adult education program. It considered leasing space in L&H’s planned development but decided the costs were beyond its budget.

Mark Bollinger, the district’s deputy operations chief, said in an interview that the district wants Transition Plus and adult basic education to stay in the area because of metro bus and rail connections. That same access to transit makes the site attractive to developers, as well.

Adult basic education students in south Minneapolis used to use the Lehman Center, 2½ miles west on Lake Street. When the district sold that building, they moved to 2225 E. Lake. Transition Plus has been in the Wilder building at 3320 Elliot Av. S.

 

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib

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