Plans are taking shape for an affordable housing development in St. Anthony, where a nonprofit developer is looking to build a 70-unit project only a stone’s throw from the city’s now-shuttered mobile home park.
Neighbors packed the community center Monday night for a first glimpse of the $18 million project, still in its infancy. The land is owned by Bremer Bank, which plans to replace its existing building with a smaller, stand-alone branch office near the new apartment project.
Aeon, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, wants to build income-restricted apartments on a 1.8-acre site next to land that for decades housed Lowry Grove mobile park. The park was closed last year, displacing residents in nearly 100 households — many of them low-income — and will soon be replaced by market-rate apartments, senior housing and an assisted-living facility.
On Monday, Lowry Grove anchored much of the community’s feedback about the separate project next door. Some said they want the apartments to be even more affordable.
Aeon, which has not yet submitted a formal land-use application, is proposing a four-story building with 16 one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units and 18 three-bedroom units affordable to those who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income.
Depending on income level, rents would range from $531 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,471 for a three-bedroom.
Several people noted Monday that the rents would be out of reach for larger families forced from Lowry Grove, who paid about $450 monthly before the park closed.
Antonia Alvarez, a Lowry Grove community organizer and former resident, decried the area’s lack of affordable options and asked whether her former neighbors would get preference in the new rentals. “One hundred families lost their homes,” she said.
Aeon officials said they worry that giving Lowry Grove residents preference in general occupancy apartments would violate fair housing standards.
“We’re trying to bring affordability back into this area,” said Aubrie Gould, a project manager at Aeon. “It can’t be a replacement for Lowry Grove.”
Two years ago, Aeon worked with mobile home residents to buy Lowry Grove by matching a $6 million offer from the Village, the developer that ultimately purchased the property to transform it into high-density housing. At one point, the site Aeon is now pursuing had been considered for affordable housing as part of the broader redevelopment of Lowry Grove.
That plan fell apart after city officials rejected the Village’s initial proposal, citing neighborhood concerns about density and traffic.
Monday’s gathering prompted similar questions related to density, with some also critical of Aeon’s plans to request $1 million in tax-increment financing from the city.
Blake Hopkins, Aeon’s vice president of housing development, said city officials so far have been receptive to early plans at the bank property.
Aeon is still working to gather funding for the project. Should the proposal win city approval in the coming months, the development could open as early as 2020.