Since 2011, nearly 900 luxury apartment units have been built in St. Louis Park, prompting some city officials to raise concerns about maintaining an affordable and diverse housing stock.
“The variety of housing being offered has been very narrow,” said City Council Member Anne Mavity. “The issue of affordability is huge. Most of the rent price points that we have been seeing are on the high end, and I want to make sure that we have affordability so folks working in regular middle-class jobs can afford to live in our community and in these newer developments.”
Recently built apartments in St. Louis Park include the Adagio, the Camerata and Harmony Vista in the Hoigaard Village development, the Ellipse (its sister building, E2, will open this summer), 36 Park and the Flats at West End, all of which feature luxury amenities and above-average rent prices.
Despite the concerns, a report released May 1 by Marquette Advisors found that the average apartment rent in St. Louis Park rose just 1 percent over the past year, from $1,059 to $1,069 per month, while the vacancy rate fell from 3.4 percent to 3.0 percent.
Greenway Depot dilemma
During a presentation to the City Council on his proposed Greenway Depot development, Don Kasbohm of Main Street Cos. acknowledged that the market for high-end apartments in St. Louis Park may be overbuilt.
His development would add more than 100 apartments to the densely populated area around Hwy. 7 and Wooddale Avenue. But Kasbohm said he plans to rent the apartments at $1.65 per square foot, which is lower than most of the recently built apartment buildings in St. Louis Park.
He also said he plans to offer more two- and three-bedroom units, unlike the recent developments that have offered mostly one-bedroom and efficiency units, which has been a concern of the City Council.
Greenway Depot would be built at the site of the old McGarvey Coffee plant, next to the proposed Southwest Light Rail Wooddale station. It would provide the area with more of the high-density development officials want along the transit line. But some on the City Council worry that it could further snarl traffic in the already congested area.
“There’s already quite a bit of traffic congestion where the light-rail station would be, and more development and the light-rail station would just add to that,” said City Council Member Susan Sanger. “I’m also concerned that we may not ... be able to fill additional apartment buildings.”
The City Council recommended that the Greenway Depot proposal undergo further refinement as more information on the Wooddale station becomes available.
Aging baby boomers downsizing and young professionals’ reluctance to purchase a home in the suburbs have been cited as reasons for the apartment boom in Minneapolis. That apartment building spree now has spread to St. Louis Park, an inner-ring suburb.
“The population ... living in rental units seems to be changing, and so that also means that there is more civic engagement from renters in our community,” said Sanger.
Despite concerns, city staffers and City Council members indicated that for the time being, they will allow the market to dictate the type of dwellings built in St. Louis Park.
“There is a lot of [higher-end rentals] being built right now; whether or not it is overbuilt I don’t know. But that is what the market is supporting right now,” said Michele Schnitker, housing supervisor for St. Louis Park.