The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday is expected to approve a $2 million loan for a modular-housing manufacturing plant planned for the North Loop.
Devean George, an Augsburg University graduate and former pro basketball player turned real estate developer, plans to locate the $19 million facility in a building near the Minneapolis Farmers Market. It would make modular units for multi-family housing.
The project would create 177 to 315 jobs from 2023 to 2025 paying $30 or more an hour, the city said.
The city credit, likely a no-interest loan from an economic development fund, would match a $2 million equity investment by George, developer of two North Side affordable-housing projects as well as commercial-residential projects in Hopkins.
"Devean is credible and connected to community," said Erik Hansen, Minneapolis chief of economic development.
"He is methodical. And his projects work," Hansen said. "And we don't have a lot of 200,000-square-foot manufacturing space on the North Side or Minneapolis. This is climate-controlled manufacturing. Modest cost, less waste, more efficiency. And good jobs.''
Project-backed revenue bonds would raise about $10 million, leaving a gap up to $5 million.
"I'm the sole owner at this point and working on the financing side," George said in a telephone interview. "I wanted the city on board first. This is a great opportunity ... for everybody. I have built my business with communities. Housing and jobs go hand in hand."
George, 45, a North Side native, will need to find additional funders next. Those could include the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for job-training money. George expects to use established job trainers such as Minneapolis-based Emerge, Summit Academy and Dunwoody College.
The George Modular Innovation Solutions plant at 415 Royalston Av. N. would use specialty steel as the skeleton of apartment buildings. George said his modular-manufacturing partner is Advanced Modular Technologies of Michigan.
Some products would supply two George developments: Upper Harbor near the Mississippi River in the northwest corner of Minneapolis, where George is co-developer of up to 700 housing units with United Properties, and Village Creek in Brooklyn Park.
"It will be high-density, durable, multi-family housing instead of traditional 'stick built' construction," George said. "Built year-round, up to 365 days a year, in shorts and T-shirts. We'll cut four to six months off the time it takes to build traditional housing. It's a great opportunity.''
The ''light-gauge'' steel structure is a cold-formed product used to make construction processes smoother and products stronger, according to industry information. It doesn't deteriorate, is less bulky and lighter than structural steel and is much lighter than concrete.
George said he is negotiating a long-term lease on the Royalston building. It is being vacated by Target's media-production unit for space in northeast Minneapolis.
The building was built in 1965 and is owned by ICIDS, a St. Paul-registered limited liability corporation, according to Hennepin County property tax records. It is valued at $3.525 million and produces $118,802 in property taxes.
Modular apartment housing is still rare in Minnesota.
Two years ago, a developer opened the $4 million, Mod42 modular-apartment project at 42nd Street and S. 32nd Avenue. Cranes hoisted the box-like apartments into place that largely were built in an Owatonna factory. Workers stacked 16- by 72-foot apartment "boxes" and bolted them together to form a 30-unit, three-story apartment complex.
George has retained Bill English, the first Black salesman at 3M Co. in the 1960s and later at the former Control Data. He was instrumental in bringing a Control Data plant to the North Side in the 1970s.
George's mother worked at the Control Data plant with friends' parents, George recalled.