U of M researchers studying Lowry Grove closure

file photo • The Lowry Grove manufactured housing park in St. Anthony was closed last year for redevelopment, displacing the hundreds of people who lived there. Now, a University of Minnesota researcher is working to document what happened to them.

University of Minnesota researchers are working on a study about the impact of the Lowry Grove manufactured housing park’s sale and closure on displaced residents.  

Researchers want to hear from everyone involved — former residents, staff from nonprofits who tried to help residents buy the St. Anthony site, attorneys and people who helped displaced residents — in order to tell the entire story. 

“Here is an example of stable, affordable housing in a nice neighborhood,” said University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs director Dr. Edward Goetz, who is spearheading the study. “It’s always bad to lose it, but it’s more ironic when you lose it here.”

After some 70 years as home to more than 90 households, residents of St. Anthony Village’s only mobile home park had to vacate the property last June.

The Village, LLC, bought and is redeveloping the former Lowry Grove site.

The St. Anthony City Council unanimously voted down The Village’s first Lowry Grove redevelopment proposal last October over concerns of density and affordable housing.

From the October proposal to another in November, affordable housing units went down from 97 to 51. The November plan designated the neighboring Bremer Bank site as the location for affordable housing. 

The latest plan for the site, presented to the St. Anthony Planning Commission last month, did not include the Bremer Bank site.

Lowry Grove was some of St. Anthony’s most affordable housing. The new project poised to take its place, pending city council approval and a final development agreement and called the Kenzie Terrace & Stinson Parkway development, might not have any housing as affordable as what was available at Lowry Grove. 


Breaking barriers

Goetz has spent the last fifteen years studying public housing demolition, “which happens far too often,” he said.

Former Lowry Grove resident Antonia Alvarez, speaking to the Planning Commission in February, said some of the people who were displaced are still homeless seven months after the park closed.

News of the Lowry Grove sale and closure had been on Goetz’s radar. Then a call came from the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, one of the nonprofits that attempted to help residents buy the site, about documenting what happened, moving him to action.

The information would be for policymakers, said Goetz, in the hopes they might strengthen state law to protect people who live in affordable housing who are at risk of losing their homes. 

Goetz quickly got back up to speed on Lowry Grove news and began seeking funding for the study late last year. Not much money was needed, just enough to pay interviewers and translators for Spanish speakers, taking only a few months to nail down.

Researchers began actively working on the study in January. They’ve been trying to contact former residents, Goetz said, but they’ve scattered to a lot of different places. Of the former residents they do locate, not all “want to relive the situation with us,” he said. 

Goetz said researchers have talked with nearly 100 families so far, completing 20 interviews. They hope for 20 to 30 more interviews. 

The study will look at where the displaced people have landed. Not everyone is facing tough times after the closure; some former residents have “expressed contentment” with their new neighborhood, said Goetz. 

“We’re also going to try to look at the decision-making process of the local government and the developers and why this thing happened,” he said. 

The study has multiple points of focus. One is Lowry Grove’s location surrounded by “very strong” housing in a “nice suburb of Minneapolis,” said Goetz. He added affordable housing should be built in nicer communities, that poverty shouldn’t be concentrated in disadvantaged neighborhoods. 

“The other element that is somewhat unique about this is the fairly large Latino population,” that lived at Lowry Grove, Goetz said. In addition to the barriers of lower incomes, Latino people can often deal with language barriers, as well.

For those interested in participating in the study, contact Goetz at egoetz@umn.edu or 612-624-8737.


– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

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