In a sea of expensive new rentals, a new apartment building near the University of Minnesota aims to offer students a more affordable alternative.

Riverton Community Housing will start construction Tuesday on its Fourth Street Student Housing Co-op, a 66-unit building at the corner of 13th Ave. SE and 4th St. SE in Minneapolis.

Rents haven't been set, but they are expected to be 10 to 15 percent less than the competition because the developer is a nonprofit and the building will be a self-managed cooperative.

Mary Bujold, president of Maxfield Research, a Minneapolis-based market research company, expects the project to stand out at a time when so many expensive new units have come to market in the area. "It will attract quite a bit of attention," she said. "Also, the smaller building is likely to be more attractive to people."

The neighborhoods surrounding the U have been besieged by upscale new apartment developments aimed at attracting the thousands of students who want to live off-campus but walk or bike to class. Since 2012, more than 2,100 apartments have hit the market or are under construction in the area, Bujold said. Another 640 are pending.

At the Bridges, one of the newest buildings to open in the area, rents for a one-bedroom start about $1,200 a month.

The Fourth Street building is one of six properties operated by Riverton, including four co-ops, which are relatively unique in the Twin Cities. Riverton is able to offer discounted rents because no investors are involved, all residents are members of the board and they act as their own landlord.

"This is inverse to the traditional landlord-tenant relationship," said Joe Goetzke, Riverton's leasing and marketing manager. "Every resident has a vote … they act as their own landlord."

The six-story building was designed by UrbanWorks Architecture and will replace a much smaller one that was already operated by the co-op. It will have first-floor commercial space, below-grade parking and a fitness center. There will also be a bike room with direct access to the street, bike storage and a bike repair station. The lobby will have a gathering space and an electronic message center to keep students connected.

Goetzke said that he expects the building to be ready for residents by the fall semester of next year.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376