Luther Seminary is joining forces with another Twin Cities nonprofit to build housing on its leafy hillside campus in St. Anthony Park.
Luther signed a nonbinding letter of intent with Ecumen, which builds and manages senior housing, to build a mix of for-sale and rental housing on the 37-acre campus.
Details are still being discussed, but Ecumen said the group would like to build 60 co-ops for seniors; 112 rentals for seniors including assisted living/memory care and a 127-unit apartment building that would include income-restricted rentals.
“Having this infusion of what will be a broad base of new housing options is pretty spectacular,” said Tanya Bell of Grand Real Estate Advisors.
Bell has been advising Luther for about two years on how to make better use of its campus. She stressed that, with planning still in its infancy, all options for how to redevelop the site are still on the table.
If stakeholders approve, the project would be built in phases starting next year on about five acres of the seminary’s lower campus.
The construction is part of a broader effort by Luther to take advantage of underused holdings. It sold five on-campus apartment buildings to Greenway Holdings last year and will lease a building to Augsburg College later this year.
“We’re certainly leveraging our resources, but it’s not just about the money,” said Michael Morrow, Luther’s vice president of finance and administration. “We see ourselves building much more of a learning and social service community on our campus.”
Like other colleges, Luther is seeing fewer people living on campus. It now has about 600 students, but only about 150 live on or near campus, portions of which were built more than a century ago. “We’re doing a big assessment of our current campus buildings,” Morrow said.
The neighborhood around the campus has also evolved. St. Anthony Park is desirable because of its rolling topography, meandering streets and quaint business district, which caters to locals and tourists alike with an independent bookstore, bakery and other shops.
But its housing stock is aging and there hasn’t been much new development, especially the kind that might appeal to those who need one-level living. The neighborhood , which is part of St. Paul, is equidistant between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, near both campuses of the University of Minnesota and along several major bus routes.
Shoreview-based Ecumen, which shares some common theological roots with Luther, has developed thousands of units of senior housing in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Matt McNeill, Ecumen’s director of business development, said it’s still unclear how the ownership will be structured if the deal closes, but Ecumen will manage all three projects.
Ecumen has extensive experience managing senior housing, but has yet to do so on a campus setting with so many housing options. If the deal moves forward, the first phase would be the senior co-op.
“We want to offer a variety of opportunities to ensure that people can stay in their neighborhood,” he said.