The planned redevelopment of the Glendale public housing complex in southeast Minneapolis could range from renovating existing units to partial or full replacement of them with new housing under illustrative options presented by a local developer Wednesday.
F. Clayton Tyler, chair of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, announced at its meeting Wednesday that the agency's board will conduct a public hearing in March in Glendale, where feisty opposition to the agency's redevelopment push has persisted.
He also announced that agency board member James Rosenbaum will chair an advisory committee for the redevelopment process. Rosenbaum is the retired federal judge who oversaw implementation of a legal settlement that erased and rebuilt the former North Side public housing projects.
Developer George Sherman presented the board four options with their pros and cons as part of a draft report to be completed next month. The simplest and cheapest would be to renovate all 184 units in the 28 rowhouses. The most complex would tear down all units in the 64-year-old complex and rebuild 423 units in a mix of apartment buildings, rowhouses and a senior building. The same number of units for public housing-eligible residents would be retained in each option but people with higher incomes also could rent units.
His presentation drew immediate pushback from a group of residents who call themselves Defend Glendale. They argue that the agency should be more transparent about its plans for redevelopment, should notified residents of the presentation, and that money would be best spent on dealing with immediate needs of the complex, such as cold temperatures in the rowhouses. It wants an independent party to review Sherman's figures.
Agency officials said that if the project goes ahead, a request for developer proposals will be issued with no special preference to Sherman, a long-time local developer. The agency selected him because of his experience in redevelopment Riverside Plaza, using methods that kept residents in that complex by moving them temporarily to different units even as their unit was rehabbed.
Sherman said rehabbing the current complex would add about 25 years to its lifespan, or about half the useful life of newbuilt construction. One benefit would be that the existing street system could be retained, without replacement of utilities. But the disadvantage was that only a small number of units would be made accessible to physically disabled residents, and no units would be tailored to aging residents. He estimated a $93,809 per unit construction cost.
Another option would retain 98 existing units on the complex's east side adjacent to the single-family-dominant elsewhere in Prospect Park, but add five-story buildings along 27th Av. SE. The complete replacement option would cost an estimated $194,682 per unit for construction.
Cora McCorvey, the agency's executive director, said the Sherman concepts will be reviewed with residents at an on-site meeting next month.
Meanwhile, communication consultant William Smith told the board that he concluded after surveying residents that a majority of those responding want redevelopment to occur.
"There is a very loud and visible contingent," he said, referencing Defend Glendale. "But there are many silent voices that are not speaking out." Defend Glendale said in a statement that it is skeptical of Smith's findings and thinks that key questions about whether residents want to move out of existing units should have been asked.
A key recommendation in his report is that the agency needs to restore a resident council. A previous version dissolved amidst the accusations of some leaders that agency staff were trying to manipulate the council or target its members.
Smith said residents fear they'll be relocated away from their community and have trouble finding a new place to live due to a lack of units accepting rental vouchers, they'll pay higher rent and they'll not be able to return to Glendale once it is redeveloped. He said other Prospect Park residents fear the impact of higher-density development, the potential loss of students at nearby Pratt Community School, and that relocation will be traumatic for some families.
Rosenbaum said he thinks that a lack of information may be fueling resident fears. "People are afraid of what they don't know," he said.
The Defend Glendale group of residents has raised fears of gentrification of their neighborhood. Unlike the lawsuit that led to the replacement of the North Side projects, which cited a concentration of race and poverty that plaintiffs argued was illegal, the Glendale battle has been fought more over the issue of whether it's more cost-effective to rehab or replace.
Agency officials have argued that federal aid to keep up their properties is insufficient to do the job. They say they want to use other financing tools, such as tax credits or federal mortgages, to add more units and increase the income mix of the complex to make the public housing component more financially sustainable.