Quality of life for seniors is at the forefront of an affordable rental development being constructed at St. Paul's Highland Bridge, the first of at least 10 such projects planned at the 122-acre site once controlled by Ford Motor Co.

With tenants expected to move in by fall 2023, the developer believes the complex — called the Lumin — will give seniors living on fixed incomes an opportunity to thrive in the Highland Park neighborhood, with walking access to services and retail. St. Paul-based CommonBond Communities, an organization that builds affordable housing across Minnesota, is behind the project.

More than 300 new construction jobs will be created by the project.

Residents at the Lumin will be age 55 and older and earn 30% or less of the area median income. The five-story building at 830 Cretin Ave., at the intersection of Bohland and Cretin avenues, will contain 60 units. The units will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, with seven of those reserved for seniors that were previously homeless.

The property will feature wellness and community rooms, and CommonBond Communities will host events and offer on-site services to residents to help alleviate isolation, said Cecile Bedor, executive vice president of real estate for the developer. Residents will also have access to on-site parking through a mix of surface and semi-covered lots.

Ramsey County provided CommonBond Communities $4.5 million from its capital improvement program to fund construction, Bedor said. The St. Paul Public Housing Agency also awarded the organization rental housing subsidies, otherwise known as Section 8, to allow residents to pay 30% of their income in rent.

The subsidies, which are in short supply, are provided through a housing assistance payment contract that is critical in proving affordable units for seniors on fixed incomes or extremely low incomes, Bedor said.

Ryan Co., the main developer of the site, previously announced CommonBond Communities and Project for Pride in Living Inc. would be partners to help create the affordable housing element. CommondBond anticipates building at least four more affordable housing buildings within Highland Bridge, which is designed to have 3,800 total housing units — 20% of them designated as affordable housing — when completed.

Of those 3,800 housing units, Atlanta-based PulteGroup will develop just over 300 row homes expected to be built along the edge of a new stream-like water feature. Presbyterian Homes and Services will be the owner and operator of the project's senior housing.

Nearly 40% of St. Paul renters, or about 22,300 households, are extremely low-income, meaning their incomes are at or below the 30% area median income level, according to the city. In December 2021, St. Paul officials announced the city was investing $37.5 million into a 30% area median income initiative to increase the supply of affordable housing. Ramsey County previously committed $37 million to addressing affordable housing.

Future affordable rental properties in Highland Bridge built by CommonBond will be no less than 50 or 60 units, Bedor said. The region and state is experiencing an extreme shortage of affordable housing, and Highland Bridge developments are meant to help fill the gap.

"This is a vision St. Paul has had," Bedor said. "Now, it's coming to fruition."