Settlement reached in contested Lowry Grove sale


St. Anthony’s former Lowry Grove mobile home park is vacant of residents, but it won’t be that way for long. In addition to building market-rate apartments, townhouses and senior-focused housing, as part of a legal settlement, the site’s owner is making provisions, in partnership with equitable housing nonprofit Aeon, to add 110 affordable units to the site as well. Jesse Poole photo

Residents of Lowry Grove had to leave the property June 30, leaving behind sets of stairs leading to nowhere and other items. But due to a new legal settlement, those residents may have the opportunity to return once the redevelopment project is complete, as an effort to build more inclusive affordable housing on the site is now in the works. Jesse Poole photo

Residents of Lowry Grove had to leave the property June 30, leaving behind sets of stairs leading to nowhere and other items. But due to a new legal settlement, those residents may have the opportunity to return once the redevelopment project is complete, as an effort to build more inclusive affordable housing on the site is now in the works. Jesse Poole photo

The new owner of the land known as Lowry Grove in St. Anthony Village has agreed to sell a portion of the 15-acre property to Aeon, a Minneapolis-based equitable housing nonprofit. 

That decision and others stem from a legal settlement reached between the land’s owner, The Village LLC, and Aeon, along with former residents of the now-disbanded manufactured housing community. 

The settlement, which includes the creation of a new fund to aid those former residents, appears to signal a conclusion to the lengthy and heated legal battle over the sale and closure of the suburb’s only mobile home park.

 

Legal battle

Residents contested the sale last summer. In an effort to keep the land as it was — one of the most affordable places to live in the suburb — they attempted to use their right of first refusal by partnering with Aeon to match The Village’s $6 million offer.

According to state law, their offer would take precedence over The Village’s. However, after determining that the counter offer was not done correctly, the former owner, Lowry Grove Partnership LLP, and The Village went through with their transaction on June 13, 2016.

A year-long legal battle, court rulings, protests and marches followed.

But with a judge ultimately siding with The Village — and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development later doing the same — much of that battle drew to a close by the time residents were evicted June 30 of this year. 

The litigation culminated when The Village filed a countersuit earlier this summer against Lowry Grove resident leader and activist Antonia Alvarez for defamation and Aeon for negligent misrepresentation. 

However, those aspects are all but dropped, pending the city council’s approval of the new settlement.

According to Traci Tomas, vice-president of The Village, the recent agreements between those involved alter the already-submitted redevelopment plans. The new changes, some of which were not made public, require the city’s permission to move forward.

 

New partnership

Redevelopment plans detail the construction of five large apartment-like buildings with townhomes surrounding them. Initially, one of those larger buildings was to be rentable “micro” apartments. While Tomas called them affordable, she also admitted the units would not be as affordable as the site rents that Lowry Grove residents were paying, nor would they have space for a family of four.

As part of the settlement agreement, though, The Village has shifted how it will incorporate affordable housing into the equation. 

“Recognizing that all parties desire to see affordable housing in the redevelopment, The Village has agreed to use Aeon as the affordable housing developer in this matter,” The Village and Aeon said in a joint statement.  

The Village has agreed to sell 2.1 acres of the overall land to Aeon.

Aeon plans to construct 110 units of affordable housing on the site, “including units designed to provide housing to those with the greatest financial hurdles.” 

According to the statement, this new development provides Lowry Grove residents who have had to move out of the city, the ability to return and live in St. Anthony again — at the same location, in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue.

Another central feature of the settlement is the creation of a fund to help residents of the nearly 100 homes that were either moved or demolished during the last year, some of whom have still not found a permanent housing replacement. 

Though the specifics are undisclosed, The Village said it’s making a “six-figure donation” to the new charitable fund, called the Lowry Grove Resident Support Housing Fund.

 

Affordable housing

The subject of affordable housing within St. Anthony is interwoven with Lowry Grove, its sale, closure and now redevelopment. Several residents as well as the activist group St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action have decried the lack of equitable housing in the suburb. 

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 at City Hall at 7 p.m. Aug. 10.

As for the development itself, as of now, a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 28. It 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.

 

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


 

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