Developer addresses density concerns at Lowry Grove redevelopment


The Village, LLC, has revised its development proposal, shrinking the number of units it plans to build on the former Lowry Grove property in St. Anthony from 723 to 615. Meanwhile, the property sits mostly empty, as the proposal has yet to be approved by the city. Jesse Poole/photos

New proposal has  100 fewer units.

Responding to concerns from residents, the owner of what used to be the Lowry Grove mobile home park has submitted an updated proposal to the City of St. Anthony Village for the redevelopment of the 15-acre property, reducing the number of units it plans to build on the site.

The property, in the 2500 block of Lowry Avenue, was vacated by residents and their mobile homes at the end of June, however, construction has not yet begun on the site, due to continued planning and pending city approval.

Initially, plans for the property, which was home to the manufactured housing community for some 70 years, included more than 700 new units in five large apartment buildings, with two-story townhomes lining part of the property. 

In seeking input from residents, the owner, The Village, LLC, an affiliate of Wayzata-based developer Continental Property Group, and city staff have heard concerns from residents, mostly regarding the increased density that such a development would bring to the largely residential neighborhood. The Village purchased the property in June 2016 for $6 million.

Traffic congestion, safety issues and a change in the character of the neighborhood because of the development are concerns that have been raised at numerous city council meetings, as well as in letters to the editor in this newspaper.

“In an effort to answer the concerns of city staff and neighbors, The Village, LLC and Aeon are reducing density for the site, reducing building heights, increasing parking and making changes to internal roads and trails to ensure public safety — all while maintaining their promise to provide affordable housing,” Traci Tomas, vice president of The Village, said in a statement. 

Tomas referenced The Village’s relatively new partnership with the Minneapolis-based equitable housing nonprofit Aeon, which will create affordable housing on 2.1 acres of the land.

The two entities had been adversaries during a year-long legal battle for ownership of the land, with Aeon assisting former residents of Lowry Grove, many of whom wanted to keep their homes on the property.

 

Fewer affordable, senior units

The residents contested The Village’s purchase of the land in the summer of 2016, and in an effort to keep it as 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 have taken 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. 

Aeon and residents sued The Village, though in two seperate rulings, two judges agreed that the counter offer was not done correctly.

In an effort to come together, the parties involved in the lawsuit reached a settlement agreement; as part of it, Aeon will own and operate affordable housing on part on the property.  

Tomas said the new plans do not mean Aeon is failing its mission to bring affordable housing back to the site. Plans indicate they’ll match the number of affordable units that were on the site when it was purchased by The Village, with 97. Initial plans for the affordable-housing building had that number at 110 units.  

According to updated proposal documents, the total number of units on the property has been reduced from 723 to 615, which is about 40 units per acre. 

To do that, one of the five buildings was reduced from five to four stories; another went from six to five stories — both of those buildings are proposed senior housing. The affordable-housing apartment building went from six to four stories. 

Roads and walkways on the property have also been altered to “increase connectivity and to ensure the project incorporates public safety features that exceed state fire code,” the document states, referencing residents’ concerns about pedestrian safety.

The project had been put on the docket for the city council’s Sept. 26 meeting, but it was removed from the agenda at The Village’s request so the proposal could be revised. 

“Since we began planning this development, city and neighborhood input has been important to us,” Tomas said in the statement. “We’ve made many changes along the way to address neighborhood comments and concerns. We’re continuing to do so.”

Representatives from The Village will appear before the council at its Oct. 10 meeting with a presentation that will cover the overall project as well as the changes it has made to address feedback.

To hear more about what The Village plans to do with the property, attend the city council meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 3301 Silver Lake Road NE. 

 

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



 

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