The fate of a new plan to redevelop St. Anthony's shuttered mobile home park now hangs on what City Council members make of the proposal's big changes.
The plan before city leaders Tuesday night is a far cry from the one they soundly rejected in October after neighbors raised concerns about the high-density project. The new design for the site, which for decades housed the Lowry Grove mobile home park, calls for shorter buildings, scaled-back density and more surface parking.
The developer is proposing up to 430 units be spread across three buildings on the 15-acre site, with a mix of market-rate apartments, senior housing and an assisted living facility.
But at a recent planning commission meeting, several members of the public pointed out the "glaring absence" of affordable housing and urged city leaders to keep it in mind when they make their decision. The controversial sale of Lowry Grove sparked protests and a court battle. Its closure displaced nearly 100 households, many of them low-income.
Antonia Alvarez, a Lowry Grove community organizer and former resident, said at the Feb. 26 commission meeting that some of her former neighbors are still homeless. Most left St. Anthony in search of affordable places to live.
"I am not going to silence my voice," Alvarez said through a Spanish translator. "I hope that before making any decision, you think of the residents that were part of this city."
City officials have previously said that affordable housing would be a priority in any development that takes the place of the mobile home park.
The developer's earlier proposal, which city leaders rejected, called for 97 units of affordable housing to replace homes lost. But reducing the density in response to neighborhood pushback undercut the affordable component, according to the Village, which bought the property for $6 million in 2016 and then closed the park last June.
The Village, an affiliate of Wayzata-based Continental Property Group, had previously looked into putting affordable housing on a nearby property where a bank now sits. But that plan fell through after the purchase agreement for the bank site expired in January.
After St. Anthony leaders voted down the original plan, the developer rebuilt the project from "square one," according to a letter to the city.
At the February planning commission meeting, some neighbors said they were pleased with the changes in the new plan.
"I feel they took to heart what our neighborhood had to say about what our concerns were," Andrew May said. "On the whole, I'm in favor of approval of this plan."
But others expressed disappointment in the lack of affordable housing.
"Any concern for poor people who need a place to live is absent from this proposal and in everything I have seen in this city," resident Sandi Sherman said.
After nearly 20 people spoke on the latest proposal, commission members opted to recommend its approval with a few conditions — while also pushing for the City Council to "strongly consider tying financial tax incentives" to the development of affordable, family housing throughout the project.