ST. PAUL, Minn. — Historic buildings at the Fort Snelling Upper Post will become affordable housing with preference given to military veterans and their families under a deal signed Wednesday by Minnesota officials and a Plymouth-based company.

Officials of the Department of Natural Resources signed the agreement with Dominium, an affordable housing development and management company. The deal calls for creating 176 units of affordable housing in the vacant buildings near Historic Fort Snelling.

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement the $100 million project comes "when there is a great need for affordable housing." In August, a report by the Governor's Task Force on Housing called for creating 300,000 new affordable housing units by 2030.

The 26 buildings at the Upper Post were built in the late 1800s. The DNR Parks and Trails Division has managed the property since 1971, when the site was transferred as part of the Federal Lands to Parks Program.

The 41-acre site was once used as a military post. Thousands of Minnesota soldiers departed from the site during the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II. From 1944 to 1946, the site was the location of the Japanese language school for the U.S. military.

"The Fort Snelling Upper Post was once regarded as one of the most endangered historic sites in the nation, but today we are taking a significant step toward preserving it for future generations," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in the statement.

The Upper Post Flats will give housing preference to veterans and their families. It's expected to open in 2021.

The project will be financed through low-income housing tax credits, federal and state historic tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and other sources. The state of Minnesota will retain ownership of the site while Dominium will be responsible for managing and operating the buildings and site amenities.

Dominium also handled rehabilitation of the Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh Street in St. Paul, the Pillsbury A-Mill in Minneapolis and other historic landmarks. The company expects to close on financing by late summer or early fall 2019.