Housing proposed for St. Anthony Walmart site


St. Anthony’s former Walmart has sat vacant for five years since the retailer closed the store at the same time a location in Roseville opened. (file photo)

A current redevelopment proposal includes two separate apartment buildings that would be constructed in phases; the first could be completed as soon as 2021, with the second following in 2023. (courtesy of Doran Companies)

In front of a crowded house on April 30, the St. Anthony City Council and Planning Commission held a joint meeting to review a proposal for redevelopment of the city’s vacant Walmart site. 

Doran Companies, which has a purchase agreement for the property, located at 3800 Silver Lake Road, presented its concept for a roughly 500-unit, four-story apartment complex consisting of two separate buildings. 

Kelly Doran, principal at the company, presented a slideshow of architectural renderings and initial figures for the new build. The design hopes to attract both “lifestyle renters,” the growing number of aging Baby Boomers who want the convenience of an apartment in retirement, and young adults. 

Doran described his company’s properties as “amenity-intensive.” In addition to a fitness center and outdoor pool, Doran mentioned having a putting green, a bocce ball court and multiple entertainment suites within the complex. 

The proposal includes an underground parking lot, with one stall per unit, as well as an additional outdoor parking lot. 

Roughly 60% to 65% of the development is slated to be one-bedroom apartments. While Doran stressed that final numbers are flexible and will be set at a later date with input from the city, he was able to give rough estimates for rent. 

“If it would be consistent with other, similar projects that we’ve done, the rent would average probably somewhere in the $1.80 to $2 per square foot range,” Doran said at the meeting. 

He also estimated that one-bedroom apartments would range from 650 to 850 square feet. At $1.80 per square foot, a 650-square-foot apartment would cost $1,170 per month. 

This would be slightly above the median rent in St. Anthony, which was $1,031 according to 2017 Census estimates. With an average per capita income of $3,285 per month, the cheapest apartment would account for 36% of an average monthly income. 

City council and Planning Commission members asked clarifying questions about the plans, but voiced no opinions about them.

 

Affordability?

After the meeting, a group of residents expressed concerns over affordability and were disappointed with the lack of discussion on the subject.

“We have goals in our new comprehensive plan around affordable housing and this meets none of them,” said resident Kate Martin. “I just hope that’s part of a continuing conversation.”

In an interview, Doran said that it would probably not be financially viable to make a percentage of the units affordable.

“It’s going to be difficult enough to make the economics of this development work doing it as a market-rate housing project,” he said. “If there were going to be an affordable aspect to it, then there would have to be additional financial assistance from the city.”

Doran does anticipate requesting tax increment financing, or TIF, from St. Anthony. That means that, for a set period of time after the development is complete, any increase in the amount of property taxes paid will go to the developer to reimburse costs. 

However, the amount of TIF Doran could get is limited because the site is already in an active TIF district, dating back to the creation of the Silver Lake Village shopping center, which opened in 2005. That limits additional TIF financing for new projects until the original district becomes inactive. 

Doran added that there has been no discussion of other financing methods, including those that might allow for a percentage of affordable units. 

“The city is going to look at this project just like it looks at every project, as to how it fits into their housing goals, kind of globally,” explained City Planner Stephen Grittman in an interview. “Not every project is going to meet every goal. This one may end up having an affordable component, but I think we’re too early in the process really to know that.”

 

More in the process

While Martin supported the creation of high-density housing at the site, she hoped the city would get creative with finding a way to make a portion of it affordable.  

“I think we give this developer a density bonus. Let him do 50 units an acre instead of 38 and sell a small portion — two acres, three acres — to [affordable housing provider] Common Bond, or something like that,” she said.

Some residents echoed her concerns, while another made the point that it’s about time something new went up on the site. Walmart vacated the site in 2014 as it opened a larger location in Roseville just miles away. The resident cited the loss in property tax revenue that has happened during the five years the big box retail space and massive parking lot have sat empty.

The next step of the city’s approval process is a preliminary development plan, which involves a complete formal application, including detailed architectural, engineering and site plans. Once that application has been submitted, there will be a review process, including a public hearing before the Planning Commission. 

After the city completes its environmental assessment of the proposal, the developer can present a more detailed application to the council. Doran estimated that the completed assessment and next phase of review would take place in July.

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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