A Champlin-based nonprofit that helps burn victims and ailing firefighters will expand into a new apartment building soon to be built in downtown Minneapolis.

The 10-story building developed by Sherman Associates will include 12 apartments for Firefighters for Healing and space for its social services and mental health programs, along with 223 market-rate apartments, a day care and retail space.

The building, at 500 S. 7th St., will be part of the new Thrivent corporate campus, said George Sherman, CEO of Sherman Associates. The partners eventually hope to build a skyway connection to HCMC, whose Burn Center treats some of the most severely injured patients.

Firefighters for Healing provides free housing for people receiving treatment for severe burns, as well as their families. It also provides lodging for firefighters and other first responders receiving treatment for conditions such as cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder.

If all goes as planned, the space will represent a significant expansion for the nonprofit, which now has a smaller space with about five apartments. The new space will be modeled after two of the oldest fire stations in Minneapolis, a choice the group hopes will make the place feel safe and welcoming, especially for first responders.

"They really have a place of refuge and don't need to worry about logistics of trying to [book] a hotel room," said Jake LaFerriere, founder of the nonprofit. "We handle all that. They can just go there and take a breath of fresh air."

The building is the first to receive an exemption from Minneapolis' new inclusionary zoning ordinance for "extraordinary circumstances."

The ordinance, which took effect last year, requires developers to include affordable housing units when constructing large apartment buildings, pay a fee or donate land to the city. The space for Firefighters for Healing is being offered in lieu of those requirements.

"I think the situation with the Firefighters for Healing is very unique and so I think it sets a pretty high bar" for future exemptions, said Emily Carr, a senior project coordinator in the city's Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.

Work on the project began before the city's ordinance was passed, and Sherman said he encouraged city leaders to include an exception for "community impact projects that served other needs."

The City Council passed the exemption Friday, and Mayor Jacob Frey's office said he will approve it as well. Sherman said he expects construction to begin in April and wrap up late in 2022.

The nonprofit's portion of the building is estimated to cost about $6 million, with Sherman Associates providing $5 million in financing and Firefighters for Healing providing just over $1 million.

LaFerriere said the pandemic has hurt fundraising efforts and that they are still trying to raise about $300,000 for their portion.

"This isn't just bricks and mortar and rooms," he said. "It's a healing space."

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994