Some of the elders in the Ventura Village neighborhood of Minneapolis sounded giddy Thursday night that a landlord with a deep investment in their area has emerged as the leading candidate to redevelop a prominent Franklin Avenue apartment building.

Mark Orfield is the city’s preferred choice from among four proposals to bring the eyesore at 628 E. Franklin Av. back to habitation. It has sat vacant for more than 15 years.

The neighborhood’s housing and land use panel gave its enthusiastic thumbs-up to Orfield. He has multiple properties in the area, most notably a collection of five apartment adjacent buildings across Franklin at Park Avenue. The city values those at $3.8 million.

“He’s a property owner in our community that we’ve never had complaints about over the years,” said resident Robert Albee. Orfield has served on the neighborhood group’s board in the past. “I am just thrilled,” said another resident, Mary Watson. Watson and Albee sit on the land use panel; its endorsement of Orfield's proposal will be reviewed by the neighborhood's general membership meeting later this summer. 

Orfield said he’s hoping to close on the property in October. He estimated the rehab will cost more than $800,000, an amount for which he said he has a lender’s financing commitment.

”It seems to have good bones," Orfield said of the building. He said that he’s aimed lights from his buildings to brighten the street by the empty building, mowed grass there, and even painted some of the plywood boards it sports.

The building was gutted as part of a previous failed rehab effort that foundered several years ago. Its floors are littered with pigeon droppings.

Orfield plans 11 two-bedroom apartments and three one-bedroom units, all renting at market rates. He’ll install a fitness center and bike area in the basement that all his area tenants could access. The building carries only five parking spots, but Orfield said he could accommodate additional parking at his other buildings. He said he expects many of his future tenants to bike or ride the bus.

Cherie Shoquist, a city development project coordinator, said her agency was pleased to receive quality development proposals this time. It rejected all proposals when it sought them last year. The city asked $75,000 for the property.

Built in 1904 as a luxury apartment building with bay windows and distinctive brickwork, 628 slowly deteriorated. It got caught up in the savings and loan debacle of the late 1980s. It went tax-forfeit twice. It went into foreclosure, and its ownership was disputed in court. The city bought it back through an intermediary and has been trying to market it since.