St. Anthony receives official application for redevelopment of Lowry Grove


Those living in Lowry Grove were required to move out by June 30. Now, vacant of residents, the land awaits redevelopment, and the developer, The Village, awaits feedback on plans from both city leaders as well as residents. Jesse Poole

The new owner of Lowry Grove, the 15-acre property in St. Anthony Village on the border of Minneapolis, is proceeding with plans to redevelop the land. Plans reveal a future vastly different than the property’s 70-some-year history of being a manufactured housing community. courtesy of The Village LLC

Just shy of a month after it was completely vacated, an application to redevelop the land long known as Lowry Grove was submitted to St. Anthony Village.

Trying but ultimately failing to keep the land, residents of the former mobile home park in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue fought a legal battle with the new owner of the 15-acre property for more than a year. While much of that battle has drawn to a close, other aspects are still in play. 

According to St. Anthony city staff, though, plans for the land, which include nearly 800 new apartment units, are rolling forward. 

A redevelopment application, submitted by the land’s owner — The Village LLC, an affiliate of Wayzata-based Continental Property Group — has been received, reviewed and deemed complete, meaning the process at the city level can move forward.

One of the next steps for city staff is to conduct a thorough analysis of The Village’s proposal, outlining recommendations for changes to the project, if any, and then making that report available on the city’s website at least one week prior to a public hearing on the project, which is currently scheduled for the Aug. 21 Planning Commission meeting.

The city has had an idea of what The Village wants to do with the land for quite some time. 

In the fall of 2016, when the site was still home to more than a hundred residents, the developer submitted an informal sketch plan for Lowry Grove’s redevelopment, under the concept name Southern Gateway Project. 

Those preliminary plans haven’t changed all that much, laying out the construction of five large apartment-like buildings, with for-sale townhomes surrounding some of those buildings. Two of the larger buildings would be rentable mixed-income apartments, two others would be rentable senior housing and the fifth building would be rentable “micro” apartments, which Traci Tomas, vice president of The Village LLC, called affordable. 

However, she admitted that those units will not be as affordable as the site rents that Lowry Grove residents were paying up until June 30, when they had to leave the land, and they would not have space for a family of four.

 

Affordable housing concerns

The issue of affordable housing in St. Anthony is interwoven with Lowry Grove, its sale and now its redevelopment, as various residents and the activist group St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action have decried the lack of equitable housing in the suburb. They say many of those living in Lowry Grove were unable to find equally affordable housing within the city. 

Affordable housing has come up at city council meetings throughout the past year. 

Anticipating interest in the subject, the city announced that an affordable housing work session with the city council will take place in the weeks prior to the Aug. 21 Planning Commision meeting.

The work session is at City Hall at 7 p.m. Aug. 10.

The Aug. 21 public hearing will include a time for residents in attendance to speak about the project, following a formal presentation of the staff’s report on the development.

According to a statement released by the city, any action taken by the planning commission — and then the city council — on the development proposal will follow statutory requirements. 

One of the things the city said it will be looking at is “the provision of affordable housing.” 

“The city has a history of including, requiring, and financially supporting the development of affordable housing in the community, and this commitment will continue,” St. Anthony said in the statement. 

Other things that will be looked at, the city said, include whether or not the plans are compatible with surrounding land uses; the provision of adequate public infrastructure; making sure the development meets all federal, state, watershed district and local requirements for environmental protection; and that it’s “a fair and open public process.” 

Meanwhile, the remnants of the legal battle between The Village and Lowry Grove resident leader and activist Antonia Alvarez and Aeon, a Minneapolis-based equitable housing nonprofit, continues. The Village filed a countersuit against Alvarez for defamation and Aeon for negligent misrepresentation. 

Aeon assisted Lowry Grove residents in challenging the initial $6 million sale of the property in June 2016 by submitting a matching counter offer, using the residents’ right of first refusal, which, under state law, would have taken precedence over The Village’s offer, but a judge ruled the offer wasn’t done correctly.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815


 

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