Midtown Village Redevelopment
All three phases of Midtown Village are complete as of July 2022! The following are answers to questions commonly received by the City regarding this project.
- What is the history of this property and why is the City involved?
New Brighton Elementary School was originally built in 1939, and was owned and operated by the Mounds View School District for approximately 39 years before being closed in the late 1970s. The building was then used by the School District as a Community Resource Center for another five years before being sold to the Korean United Methodist Church around 1983. The Church operated on the site until 2017 when they decided to move to a newer facility. Given that the City had identified this area for redevelopment dating back to the 1980s, the City chose to make an offer on the land and was one of four bidders on the private market. The Church selected the City's bid amongst the four offers, and the property was officially acquired by the City in August of 2017.
As to why the City wanted to be involved in this area, the success north of I-694 in the New Brighton Exchange is a recent example of how proactive efforts by the City to acquire, clean up, and revitalize an area can result in a major transformation that benefits all taxpayers in the community. To date, the overall land value within the Exchange has increased over 300% since the project began ($27 million to $108.5 million) which will result in nearly $2 million going to the tax rolls in future years benefiting the City, State, and local school district. The City anticipates this new residential redevelopment will result in a similar success.
- Why did the developers move forward with a mix of townhomes and multi-family housing on this land? Why wasn't it developed into single-family homes?
Given its proximity to existing residential uses, the land being developed has largely been viewed over the years as a logical place to address Community housing needs. In 2017, the annual Citizens Survey ranked housing as the second most critical issue to residents (second only to safe drinking water), and feedback gathered for the Comprehensive Plan further established housing as a main goal for the City. Two community workshops, a series of online surveys, various pop-up events throughout the City, and multiple Commission and Council meetings resulted in the final draft of the new 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The new plan, which will guide the Community's development for the next ten years, calls for a diverse and well-maintained housing stock to support people of all socioeconomic, age, ethnic, race, and religious backgrounds. To this end, the Midtown Village area was identified by the Community as one of three areas in the City appropriate for a "Mixed Use Neighborhood." This new land use classification is meant to accommodate medium to high-density housing ranging from 8 to 40 units per acre with stacked housing and townhomes predominantly being used.
While the new comprehensive plan was the primary reason that a mix of townhomes and multi-family housing is currently being built, a second (but equally important) factor driving these land uses is the economics of redevelopment in the metro. Land this close to Minneapolis and St. Paul, especially within a quality City like New Brighton, is expensive. The parcels within Midtown Village had a total market value of approximately $3.8 million according to Ramsey County prior to this redevelopment taking place. Development of single-family homes was economically unfeasible as demonstrated by the response to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) received by the City at the beginning of this process. Of the development proposals received by the City, two developers proposed all single-family homes, and that was only an option if the land was free and the City was able to provide additional avenues of financial assistance.
- Traffic is already a problem and this will only make things worse, won't it?
Past uses on the site(s) including the school and community center have always generated traffic to/from this area, and any future use will do so as well (a church that also placed a bid on the land was considering hosting festivals for its 3,000 members!). Regarding the site design, placing Senior Housing to the north of Highway 8 will reduce trips to and from this area as opposed to other housing options. Data shows that seniors typically generate fewer trips per day when compared to other age groups.
Historically, Old Highway 8 has carried 10,000 vehicles per day, with half of those vehicles using 8th Avenue for access to local neighborhoods and/or the freeway. Solutions being implemented to address both current and future traffic levels include:
- Installation of a controlled intersection at Old Highway 8 and 8th Avenue. This new stop light, in conjunction with the existing controlled intersection at 10th Street, will allow traffic engineers to ensure there are gaps in traffic along 8th Avenue to allow for easier and safer ingress/egress.
- Further improvements to 8th Avenue will include curb bump-outs at intersections (to slow traffic and reduce crossing distances) to directly address the safety and access concerns of the neighborhood.
- Why did this project come out of nowhere?
It did not. The City recently completed a 2-plus year comprehensive planning effort through which the community identified housing (both availability and affordability) as a primary issue of concern. Because New Brighton is fully developed, issues like housing can only be addressed via the redevelopment of underutilized parcels such as the ones that make up Midtown Village.
- Why wasn't more of an effort made in informing the public about the Comprehensive Plan and the New Brighton Elementary Redevelopment Project?
Drafting of the new Comp Plan included an extensive outreach effort. New Brighton's City Council and Economic Development Commission (EDC) discussed either the Comprehensive Plan as a whole or specifically the New Brighton Elementary redevelopment at 29 different public meetings, and published 10 articles in the City's newsletters and local newspaper among other efforts to inform the public.
- Did the Metropolitan Council force this development on New Brighton?
No. The Metropolitan Council only establishes broad goals for the metropolitan area. Every ten years, those broad goals are encapsulated in a regional planning document. State statute requires cities to adopt a comprehensive plan that is consistent with the regional planning document, but cities retain full authority to determine how to develop within their respective communities.
- What is the value of the land pre-project?
Land this close to both Minneapolis and St. Paul is expensive. The parcels making up this development site had a combined value of approximately $3.8 million according to Ramsey County, and developers had to take this cost into account when putting their proposals together.
- Could the site have been developed with single-family homes?
The City solicited development proposals at the beginning of this process, and only two developers suggested low-density options (single-family home options). Both projects would have only worked financially if the City provided the land for free, and the City was able to provide additional avenues of financial assistance. Put another way, the City would have had to take a loss of more than $2.5 million to facilitate single-family home development.
- Why were Dominium and Pulte selected as the developers?
Council and the EDC selected Dominium and Pulte as the preferred developers based on input provided during the comprehensive planning process, EDC priority rankings, City Council goals, and the reputation of both companies. Dominium has a proven track record of building high-quality, attractive, affordable units, and the company has the capital necessary to ensure the project gets built.
- Don't build more section 8 housing in New Brighton or near my home!
The City is not building Section 8 housing. In fact, no new Section 8 buildings have been built since 1986 when the law authorizing construction of Section 8 housing was repealed. Modern construction of affordable housing is supported by a tax-incentive program that is different than Section 8.
- What replaced section 8 housing and why is it different?
In recognition of problems with Section 8, congress took action in 1986 to repeal the construction portion of Section 8, and replaced it with new language in “Section 42” of the Internal Revenue Tax Code.
Section 42 established a mechanism for issuing Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and is strictly used to finance the construction (not the operation) of rental properties. The LIHTC for this property will allow units to be available for families earning 60% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI).
- Are there local examples of Dominium's product using LIHTC?
Dominium rental properties are usually of very high quality and are often mistaken for luxury apartment communities. Local examples within a short drive include:
- The Legends at Silver Lake Village
2500 38th Avenue NE
St. Anthony, MN 55421
- River North Senior Apartments
10940 Crooked Lake Boulevard NW
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
- Grand Central Flats
4729 Grand Avenue NE
Columbia Heights, MN 55421
- The Legends at Silver Lake Village
- If the housing is that nice, how can it possibly be "affordable"?
The following are example rental rates that will likely be charged at the new Dominium affordable apartments compared to both existing average rental rates and the newest market rate rentals within the City:
Number of Bedrooms Rents for Anticipated Dominium Units Current Average Rent in New Brighton Newest Market Rate Average Rents 1 $1,062 $928 $1,350 2 $1,273 $1,026 $2,000 3 $1,471 $1,532 $2,400
- Will these new buildings bring additional crime to the area?
No. The development includes owner-occupied townhomes, affordable senior housing (for ages 50-plus), and affordable family units through a minimum investment of nearly $98 million on site improvements. Development of this value doesn't inherently bring crime into a neighborhood; redevelopment of this value does quite the opposite.