In a dramatic twist, St. Anthony’s shuttered mobile home park may soon return to its former use more than three months after families were forced off the land.
The abrupt announcement Friday by the developer comes days after the city shot down a plan to transform Lowry Grove into high-density housing. The 712-unit project attracted widespread criticism from neighbors, who objected to its scope and height.
A sign reading “Reopening soon” now sits on land that the Village, an affiliate of Wayzata-based Continental Property Group, bought for $6 million in 2016. A lawsuit, rallies and urgent pleas at City Hall failed to save the mobile home park, which closed June 30 for redevelopment.
Brad Hoyt, president of the Village, said in a statement Friday that the city’s decision “denied any economically viable redevelopment on the property.” The rejected plans included 97 units of affordable housing to replace homes lost from the closure.
“They used us to do their dirty work, accomplishing their goal of evicting the mobile home and RV residents from St. Anthony,” Hoyt said. “We refuse to play along with their heartless plan.”
Hoyt said the RV park would reopen immediately, with the mobile home park planned to reopen in April 2018. He described the move as “the only option we have left.”
City officials said Friday they were aware of the new sign on the land and said they believed resurrecting the mobile home and RV park would be an allowed use.
City Manager Mark Casey said he hadn’t spoken with the developer since the new sign went up.
Some see the Village’s response in the wake of the city’s rejection to its high-density proposal as part of a political maneuver.
“There are a lot of things that are part of their negotiating tactic,” said City Council Member Hal Gray.
That tactic, Gray said, includes “accusing us of turning it down because we didn’t want affordable housing, which is just ridiculous.” He said the city didn’t want the park to close but also didn’t want it to remain in its dilapidated condition.
“If they want to put a park in there and it fits the zoning, then more power to them,” Gray said.
As a photo of the “reopening” sign swirled around social media Friday, some made mention of a colorful dispute from the developer’s past.
After Wayzata turned down Hoyt’s proposal to build a five-story mixed-use building, his company sued. Hoyt covered an existing building on the property with hot-pink paint, and an “XXX Adult Books” sign also appeared.
Hoyt told the Star Tribune that his daughter chose the color and that the sign came from someone who had planned to lease the site.
Dave Colling, a St. Anthony City Council candidate, described the new Lowry Grove sign as a “pattern of behavior” from the developer.
“It’s very disturbing that he thinks he can just bully his way into getting what he wants,” Colling said.
No trust left
Most Lowry Grove families left St. Anthony after the park closed, many displaced from homes that were too old or costly to move. Residents mourned the loss of their community as well as their neighbor, Frank Adelmann, who took his own life days before the park shut down.
Bill McConnell, who had lived in Lowry Grove for more than 30 years, slept in his car and stayed with friends in the weeks following the closure. He now lives in public housing in Minneapolis and said he doesn’t plan on returning to the park even if it reopens as planned.
“I don’t if know if anybody will trust them,” said McConnell, 66. “I think they are doing it just to snub the city.”
Former Lowry Grove resident Jean Christianson now lives in a mobile home in Blaine but said she misses the house she had in St. Anthony.
“It was close to downtown. We had lovely neighbors. I figured it was where I would be until the end,” said Christianson, 82. “Do I feel used? Yeah.”