Affordable housing building slated for vacant Payne Avenue lot

file photo • The lot between Kendall’s Ace Hardware and the former Ward 6 restaurant building, 848 Payne Ave., is currently being developed by Schafer Richardson to become a 99-unit affordable housing apartment building, which will include street-level retail space.

The empty lot between Kendall’s Ace Hardware and the now-closed Ward 6 restaurant has been vacant for more than a decade, but that’s about to change in less than a year. 

Developer Schafer Richardson is planning to turn the lot into a 99-unit affordable housing apartment building. The company updated the Payne-Phalen Community Council during it’s July 24 board meeting about its plans for the site.

Katie Anthony, a Schafer Richardson project manager, said construction will most likely start in the spring of 2019 and the goal is to finish it a year later.

The units in the building will be a mixture of studios and one- and two-bedroom units. There will be income requirements for tenants that will be capped at 60 percent or less of the area median income. That means incomes would be capped at about $40,000 a year for a single renter, or at $56,000 for a family of four.

While specific rent prices won’t be determined until the building is actually on the market, Anthony said rent could be anywhere from $900 to $1,000 for a studio, $1,000 to $1050 for a single bedroom unit, or $1,200 to $1,250 for a two-bedroom unit. 

Anthony said the building will be pet-friendly and include a dog run in the back of the building, as well as some shared green space and a grilling area. 

The street-level floor will be used for retail and Schafer Richardson will be working with the East Side Neighborhood Development Company to find businesses to fill it. 

Anthony said the side of the building facing Payne Avenue will have a brick facade.  

There will also be 86 parking spots in a combination of outdoor and tuck-under parking, which Anthony said is more parking than what is required by city code. The parking lot will share a driveway with Kendall’s Ace Hardware. 

Some board members and community members had concerns about there being enough parking, but Anthony said that in similar projects they’ve completed in the North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis, they’ve found that not all the parking is used, with residents using bikes or buses instead of cars to get around.

Board members also mentioned that the future Rush Line bus rapid transit will be passing near the site on Phalen Boulevard, which may be an attractive feature for renters. 

Some of the 86 parking spots will also be set aside for customers and employees of the street-level retail space. 

Anthony said the company would like to develop the informal, dirt bike trail between the Ward 6 building and the future apartment building into a real bike trail. However, she said she can’t guarantee it will happen because of funding, which the company is working with the city to nail down. 

Beyond the parking concerns, the board and community members were pleased with the idea.

Board member Eric Saathoff, who lives just a block away, said as a neighbor, he’s happy with the plans and is eager to see the bike trail hopefully come together.


Drumming up interest

The lot attracted quite a bit of attention in late 2016. During that time, three developers were vying for development rights, one of the first times in a long time there had been such competition on Payne Avenue. 

During that time, the lot was also featured in the American Institute of Architects’ Minnesota branch’s design contest, called St. Paul Prize. 

Architects were asked to design a mixed-use building at 848 Payne Ave., which would include residential and commercial uses, as well as a bicycle trailhead to the Bruce Vento Recreational Trail. While the contest was only used as a way to visualize possible uses of the lot, it got the community thinking about what it may want to see there. 

Ultimately, two developers, Schafer Richardson and Commonwealth Development Corporation, submitted proposals to the city in the fall of 2016 and Schafer Richardson was chosen to receive developer rights from the city, which currently owns the lot. 

According to a 2017 St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority board report, the 848 Payne Ave. project was estimated to cost about $17.5 million, with a then-estimated funding gap of $1.5 million. The report also said Schafer Richardson was hoping to buy the lot for $500,000.

The city originally acquired 848 and 844 Payne Ave. from the Richard A. Wybierala Trust in 2007 for $525,000. In 2012, a portion of 844 Payne Ave. was split off and sold to Kendall’s Ace Hardware for $380,000, to construct the new hardware store at Payne Avenue and Phalen Boulevard.

Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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