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7 projects win transit-oriented development funding

The MoZaic East project in the Uptown area of Minneapolis is losing a $300,000 transit-oriented development grant from 2014 after software developer Code42 canceled plans to move there. (Submitted image)

The MoZaic East project in the Uptown area of Minneapolis is losing a $300,000 transit-oriented development grant from 2014 after software developer Code42 canceled plans to move there. (Submitted image)

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative plans 39 units of supportive housing for homeless youth directly across from the Southdale Transit Center in Edina. The 66 West project received a $300,000 transit-oriented development loan from Hennepin County.

Hennepin County is awarding $2.5 million in grants and loans to seven projects along transit lines in Minneapolis, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Edina and Eden Prairie.

The county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority approved the awards at its meeting Tuesday to help pay for affordable and market-rate housing, road improvements and a grocery store near existing transit stations and the future Southwest Light Rail Transit line.

But with the new awards comes bad news for one of last year’s recipients – the Minneapolis-based Ackerberg Group’s MoZaic East office project in the Uptown area. The county has decided to rescind a $300,000 grant that it awarded in 2014 for the 180,000-square-foot building after a major tenant backed out.

The grant was “premised on supporting a fast-growing company that was to relocate its firm into the project,” according to county documents. Ackerberg confirmed in December that Minneapolis-based software company Code42 dropped out of the project. Plans for the building were expanded to nearly 200,000 square feet to accommodate the company’s 800-plus workers, but Ackerberg is now advertising for 180,000 square feet of commercial space, with 10,000 square feet available for retail.

The county thought the change was significant enough to alter the award since the board approved the funding with a specific occupant in mind, said Thatcher Imboden, who oversees the transit-oriented development program for Hennepin County. But the county also provided $500,000 to the project in 2013 when it was envisioned as a multitenant project and that funding hasn’t changed, Imboden said.

“The county reallocating the money isn’t an indication of the viability of the overall project,” he said.

The Ackerberg Group couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Altogether, the new awards are expected to leverage $94 million in private and public funding. The seven projects also are expected to create more than 436 housing units, add 37,500 square feet of commercial space and create or retain 211 jobs on transit corridors.

The largest award – a $600,000 loan – would help complete the third phase of the Seward Commons project near the Franklin Avenue station on the Blue Line in Minneapolis. As Finance & Commerce reported last week, nonprofit developers at Redesign Inc. are teaming up with Minneapolis-based Schafer Richardson to build 119 units of market-rate housing at 2200 Snelling Ave.

The project is part of a 4-acre industrial site south of the transit station, where two projects that provide affordable housing for seniors and people with long-term mental illnesses are already completed. Funding from the county would be used to complete a public pathway between 22nd Avenue and the Hiawatha Trail to connect to the light rail station.

Another project north of the Franklin Avenue Blue Line station was also awarded a $150,000 loan. St. Paul-based Project for Pride in Living and the American Indian Community Development Corp. are planning 32 units of supportive housing at 1600 19th St. S. The $8.2 million project will also create four full-time jobs. The county funding would be used for acquisition, streetscape elements and bike infrastructure.

A $300,000 transit-oriented development loan is part of a million-dollar week for the 66 West affordable housing project in Edina, said Anne Mavity, director of new projects for the Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. The loan, another $200,000 in funding from the county’s Affordable Housing Incentive Fund and $550,000 in tax increment financing from the city of Edina were all approved this week for Beacon’s project, Mavity said.

The nonprofit developers plan 39 units of supportive housing for homeless youth directly across from the Southdale Transit Center. The site is ideal because of its proximity to transit as well as the amount of entry-level jobs in the area, Mavity said. It also helps to expand the range of housing choices available in the suburbs, she said.

The nonprofit hopes to leverage the local funding to secure other state and private funds later this year.

“To have one come after the other, it really creates a lot of momentum as we go into the state funding round,” Mavity said. If financing comes together this year, Beacon Interfaith plans to start construction next summer.

In Minneapolis, the Eastside Food Cooperative was also awarded a $150,000 grant to expand its grocery store on Central Avenue from 4,100 square feet to 18,000 square feet. The area is well-served by frequent bus. The expansion of the grocery store is expected to create an additional 55 full-time jobs.

On the future Southwest Light Rail Transit line, the county is funding two housing projects and a roadway extension project.

In St. Louis Park, Bader Development plans a 150-unit housing development and 20,000 square feet of office space on the city’s border with Minneapolis. The project is within walking distance of the West Lake station in Minneapolis and the Beltline station in St. Louis Park. The developer would be awarded a $430,000 loan for the $38.7 million project. Of the 150 housing units, 28 will be affordable to those earning less than 50 percent of the area median income.

The project is working through the city approvals process now and Bader could start construction this August, said vice president Robb Bader. Once complete, the company plans to move its headquarters there, but would have another 10,000 square feet available for other tenants.

Transit-oriented development funds will help add amenities for bikers and pedestrians and improve access to the light rail stops. “Our goal is to make the streetscape very pedestrian-friendly,” Bader said.

A $400,000 grant was awarded to Project for Pride in Living for its Oxford Village project near the Blake Road station on the Southwest line in Hopkins. PPL plans to construct 51 units of affordable housing at the southeast corner of Oxford Street and Blake Road.

Another $460,000 grant to the city of Eden Prairie would help design a new complete street near the future Golden Triangle station. West 70th Street will be extended between Shady Oak Road and Flying Cloud Drive to “support the orderly redevelopment of the Golden Triangle area,” improve bicycle and pedestrian access and access to businesses.

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