A major new focal point for downtown Rosemount and high-density housing in Apple Valley are among the goals of the Metropolitan Council as it hands out $9 million in development subsidies to metro-area communities.
The largesse comes from a tax paid by property owners in the seven-county area. It's aimed at pushing back against subdivision sprawl by creating compact, walkable nodes linked by buses and trains to other parts of the area.
As suburbanites age, demand is growing -- and many of the housing units aimed at the south metro will be for seniors.
Assuming the projects approved by a key committee last week pass the full council, Apple Valley will end up with the biggest dollar amount of any suburb -- not all that far south of what Minneapolis itself gathers in.
And it did so at a time when its own mayor, Mary Hamann-Roland, has taken over as chairwoman of the committee reviewing the projects up for grants.
Like Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, who held the same job as her community collected millions for its town center project, Heart of the City, a decade or so ago, Hamann-Roland insists there's no conflict of interest.
"I want you to be very clear that I recused myself," she told Met Council members last week.
The projects in line for the funds:
• In Apple Valley, $896,000 for land, utilities and nearby park improvements for Cobblestone Senior Housing, an addition to the Cobblestone Lake project, a planned community with traditional architecture and shops alongside.
• In Apple Valley, $174,800 for sidewalks, trails and lighting to connect a high-density housing project to the bus rapid transit system that's gradually coming into being on Cedar Avenue.
• In Rosemount, $440,000 for a public plaza, streetlights, sidewalks and benches associated with a project called Steeple Center Senior Housing, near the public library and two schools on the edge of downtown.
The Rosemount money will help leverage about $7 million in private-sector spending, council staff members said, while the Apple Valley private investment triggered in part by the grant adds up to about $37 million.
Altogether, they said, the $9 million being dished out to 20 projects in cities from Hugo to Watertown will leverage $322 million in private investment and $40 million in other public investment.
It will also add 619 living-wage jobs, they said, together with about 2,100 housing units, about half of them affordable and half market-rate.
The downtown Apple Valley housing project -- formerly The Enclave, now rechristened The Gathering -- aims to "attract millenials along with a mix of other generations," Hamann-Roland said.
Located at Founders Lane and Garrett Avenue, it's a quarter-mile from the state's first rapid busway project. A site plan furnished by the city shows a bike/walk path wending through its wings and curling between two ponds en route to Cedar. The project includes 240 apartment units, 96 of them affordable and the rest market rate.
The Cobblestone project in Apple Valley envisions a 214-unit senior building, with 30 units designated as affordable. Its lakeside park amenities are supposed to help launch other multi-family or commercial development nearby. The money will build, among other things, a gazebo, performance space, park furnishings, playground equipment and trail connections.
The Rosemount project reshapes the northern half of the old St. Joseph's Church complex, now the Steeple Center, a community gathering spot. Behind the plaza go a 70-unit senior housing project and a 6,900-square-foot public senior center.
"We're trying to infill downtown with a variety of uses that we know will garner a fair amount of activity," said the city's community development director, Kim Lindquist. "We had experts out from the Urban Land Institute just the other night who felt that downtown is doing really well, although it's more suitable for niche marketing," boutiques and the like, rather than the major retail that will tend to land near the much busier County Road 42.
The Met Council committee approved the recommendations unanimously on a voice vote after brief discussion.
Not every south-metro request was fulfilled this year. West St. Paul was denied $75,000 for the South Robert Gateway, Rosemount $23,500 for its South Gateway, and Apple Valley $160,300 for a business campus.
This is the first round of funding overseen by Gov. Mark Dayton's newly appointed Met Council, and its members, still growing acquainted with their job, had little to say about the recommendations other than to praise them.
"I just want to say, 'Wow!'" said committee Chairman Gary Cunningham of Minneapolis. "Tremendous, tremendous work. This will have a tremendous impact on these communities, from an economic perspective, affordable housing, livability."
David Peterson • 952-746-3285