Northstar line yields dividends

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2013 - 2:46 PM

Housing and business developments are rising around Northstar stations in the north metro area.


The proximity to the rail line makes housing projects ideal for commuters in Fridley, Big Lake, Elk River and Ramsey.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Development dividends are beginning to appear along the $320 million Northstar commuter rail line nearing its fourth anniversary in the north metro area.

Apartments, townhouses, businesses and more are sprouting around the six Northstar stations from Fridley to Big Lake.

Some of the most notable recent developments on the railway to Minneapolis are in Fridley, Big Lake, Elk River and Ramsey, where the newest $13 million station opened last November.

The Ramsey station is connected to a 230-unit upscale apartment complex that is more than half open. Residents can walk under cover through an attached parking ramp and skyway to the station in the city’s developing downtown, nicknamed COR.

Also under construction is a 50-townhome affordable housing project about half a mile north of the station, said Tim Gladhill, development services manager for Ramsey.

Dave and Donna Heinrich are among about 30 tenants who have leased apartments in Residence at the COR. The empty-nesters decided to jettison snow shoveling and mowing as they downsized from a four-bedroom home in Ramsey. Their one-bedroom apartment is close to their church and Donna’s job. And by rail, they can conveniently travel to Twins games at Target Field, the airport and the Mall of America, Heinrich said. He said the apartment managers gave them a $50 credit on a Go Card to ride the Northstar.

“We thought we can hop the train and go downtown. My wife wants to go to Ikea and the Mall of America,” said Heinrich, 59, who has retired from his Realtor’s job. He said he plans to ride the train to the Fridley station, not far from Redeemer Church, where he has a part-time internship while pursuing a master’s degree.

The Northstar plays a significant role in city development, especially the two new housing projects, said Ramsey Mayor Sarah Strommen. “Having a transportion option for people who are commuting is really important.”

Projects in Fridley

A developer has plans for a mixed business and residential project on East River Road, about half a mile south of the city’s Northstar Station.

Developer John Allen, of Industrial Equities, won final approval this summer from the Fridley City Council for a 134,000-square-foot office, showroom and warehouse building on a 27-acre site along the Northstar tracks. Groundbreaking is set for this fall, and future phases include a 120-unit apartment building, said Scott Hickok, community development director.

“We are pretty darn excited about it,” Hickok said.

Hickok noted that Allen’s Riverside Corporate Centre is part of a transit-oriented tax increment financing district. That means the city can use new taxes generated for district infrastructure, such as its plan to extend 57th Avenue from Main Street, under the railroad tracks, past Riverside Centre to East River Road.

Another big housing project is brewing along University Avenue about five blocks east of the Northstar Station.

The city Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is negotiating with Trident Development of St. Cloud, which wants to buy a three-block strip the city has spent about $5 million buying and clearing since 2006, said Paul Bolin, HRA assistant executive director.

“They are looking at market rate, upscale rental units with brick and stone finishes” for several, multifloor buildings, Bolin said. He said the city has just begun working on an agreement that would give Trident exclusive development rights as it seeks financing and prepares plans.

“We want a project that makes a real statement and enhances Fridley’s image along University Avenue,” Bolin said.

Apartments in Big Lake

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