Midtown Village Redevelopment

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The developers working on the former New Brighton Elementary site and surrounding lands, Dominium & Pulte, have successfully submitted a complete application for a Preliminary Planned Residential Development.  The development is being referred to as “Midtown Village,” and the files are ready for public review.

Because development applications are very large and contain a number of plan sets most people won’t have interest in, we’ve organized the data in two ways for convenience:

This link will allow you to download the pieces of information residents generally want to review including:

a) The Applicant’s narrative explaining the project, construction timing, etc
b) A color rendering of the site plan
c) A detailed site plan showing the proposed location of buildings and improvements
d) Renderings/Representative Photos of the proposed townhomes and multi-family buildings
e) Exterior Materials sheet showing example materials for the multi-family buildings
f) Grading and Drainage plans for all development sites
g) Landscaping plan for all development sites
h) Lighting plan for all development sites
i) Cross Section for land north of Old Hwy 8
j) Draft Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW).  This document will be formally distributed for a separate public comment period in early April at which point an email specific to that process will be sent out.  Note that this document summarizes the Traffic Study within question 18 of the worksheet, and includes the full traffic study within its appendix.

This link will provide access to every piece of documentation that makes up this application (all of the typically requested data along with demo plans, storm water pollution prevention plans & notes, the stormwater management plan, sewer and water plans, civil details, etc).  Data provided in this link is in the format and organization provided by the applicant.

With a complete application now in hand, the official review process for this development has begun.  At this time, we are working towards scheduling a public hearing before the Planning Commission on MAY 21st.  The public hearing will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall and will begin at 7:00 p.m.  We will accept written comments and concerns about the plans up until May 14th.  Written comments received after May 14th will be handed out to Commissioners the night of the meeting.

For those that do not have access to a computer, please stop by City Hall when convenient and we will gladly make the materials available for your review.

The following questions and answers track the history of this development proposal and the main topics of discussion that have arisen since the concept was first unveiled.  If you have questions about the proposal, please look at this list as your question may have already been addressed.  If not, feel free to reach out as City Staff would be more than happy to listen to your concerns:  Ben Gozola (651-638-2059).

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 1970’s.  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 until they decided to move to a newer facility. Given that the City had identified this area for redevelopment dating back to the 1980’s, 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 ($27M to $108.5M) which will result in nearly $2M going to the tax rolls in future years benefiting the City, State, and local school district.  The City believes that participating in the residential redevelopment of the land surrounding the old New Brighton Elementary will result in a similar success.

Why did the developers showing a mix of townhomes and multi-family housing on this land? Can’t the area be 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 over the past year and a half for the Comprehensive Plan further established housing as a main goal for the City.  Two community workshops, a series of on-line surveys, various pop-up events throughout the City, and multiple Commission and Council meetings resulted in the final draft of the new Comprehensive Plan that is currently headed to the Metropolitan Council for final approval.  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 socio-economic, age, ethnic, race, and religious backgrounds.  To this end, the “Old Highway 8 Interchange” (the name given to the redevelopment area around the school and south to 5th Street) 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.  The shape, form, and character of the new housing is intended to transition into the surrounding neighborhoods, so please know that will be an area of focus with the developers and neighbors once a formal application comes forward.

While the new comprehensive plan is the primary reason that a mix of townhomes and multi-family housing is being proposed, 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 the Old Highway 8 Interchange slated to be used for this project have a total market value of approximately $4.1M according to Ramsey County.  Development of single family homes is economically unfeasible as demonstrated by the response to RFPs received by the City at the beginning of this process.  Of the nine development proposals received by the City, only one developer proposed all single family homes, and that was only an option for them 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 3000 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 less trips per day when compared to other age groups.

Currently Old Highway 8 carries 10,000 vehicles per day, and half of those use 8th Avenue for access to local neighborhoods and/or the freeway.  In 2019-2023 MnDOT will initiate the I-35W MNPASS project that will add a new lane in each direction to I-35W from County Road C in Roseville to Sunset Avenue in Lino Lakes.  During construction it is anticipated that drivers will use local roadways to avoid freeway delays.  To address construction traffic looking for alternate routes, MnDOT has worked with the City to construct temporary traffic mitigation strategies.  Temporary improvements will include a traffic signal at 7th St and 8th Avenue, dual left turn lanes from 8th Avenue to 10th Street, and restricted left turns from 8th Avenue to Old Highway 8.  The City will use MnDOT traffic data, combined with anticipated development traffic to seek permanent improvements in the corridor.  Solutions being considered to address both current and future traffic levels include:

  • Having a controlled intersection at Old Hwy 8 & 8th Avenue, 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 could include curb bump outs at intersections (to slow traffic and reduce crossing distances), raised intersections (which force vehicles to slow down upon approach), or possibly mini roundabouts (to both slow traffic and minimize crossing distances). Such changes will directly address the safety and access concerns of the neighborhood.

What will trigger an email update coming out from staff, how many emails should I expect, and how often can I expect them?

The City will send out email updates as the status of the development changes (i.e. when a complete application is received, once official meeting dates for review have been set, notice of decisions by the Planning Commission or Council, etc.), or as needed to respond to frequently asked questions. These emails will be event triggered, so please don’t expect a weekly or daily update.

Why did this project come out of nowhere?

It did not. As covered at the January 22nd City Council meeting, the City recently completed a two-year comprehensive planning effort thorough 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.

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.

Is the Metropolitan Council forcing 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 have a combined value of approximately $3.8M according to Ramsey County, and developers must take this cost into account when putting proposals together.

Can the site be 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; meaning the City would have taken a loss of more than $2.5 million.

Why has Dominium and Pulte been 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.

What is Section 42?

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:

The Legends at Silver Lake Village…….. 2500 38th Ave NE, St Anthony, MN 55421
River North Senior Apartments……….. 10940 Crooked Lake Blvd NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Grand Central Flats……………………….. 4729 Grand Avenue NE, Columbia Heights, MN 55421

If the housing is that nice, how can it possibly be “affordable?”

Below 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.

Bedrooms Rent Rent Rent
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 anticipated development would include owner occupied townhomes, affordable senior housing (for ages 50+), and affordable family units through a minimum investment of nearly $98M on site improvements. Development of this value doesn’t inherently bring crime into a neighborhood; redevelopment of this value does quite the opposite.

What is currently being done about the traffic that will be generated by the development of the New Brighton Elementary site?

Before the City will consider an application complete for review, the developers will need to supply the City with (among other things) a traffic study that analyzes pre-development traffic and post-development traffic to clearly identify development impacts and needed mitigation measures.

If 7th street is terminated with a cul-de-sac, where will the cul-de-sac go so that no existing homes are impacted?

City staff and the developers will work directly with property owners to the north of the development to identify the best possible solutions to traffic and right-of-way in this area. Importantly, the City has no interest in any designs that would impact existing structures, and we would prefer to see a final solution that would benefit the adjacent properties by cleaning up the 1930’s era cul-de-sac bulb, which has never been used. There are several possibly outcomes that include but are not limited to leaving the current street configuration as it is, or terminating the street at its southern-most point and creating a cul-de-sac on the development property itself.

What does the timeline look like going forward for the development? (What is the typically development approval process look like?

The timeline for a land-use project like this one is 30 to 120 days following receipt of a complete application. General steps are as follows:

  1. Developer submits an application, and city reviews it for completeness. Official review only begins once all required information is submitted.
  2. Once deemed complete, the application is routed for comments and a public hearing is scheduled; notices are sent to neighboring properties with 600 feet of the development, and a public hearing notice is published in the newspaper.
  3. Planning Commission holds a public hearing and passes recommendations to the City Council.
  4. City Council reviews and takes action on the application.

When could we expect this item to be considered by the Planning Commission/City Council?

It is looking like the Planning Commission will be holding the public hearing on April 16th. It is then anticipated that Council will hold a public hearing on the creation of the TIF district needed for this development on April 23, 2019.

Will any eminent domain be used in conjunction with this development?

No. The current City Council views eminent domain as a last-resort option for accommodating public projects, and City Staff does not see any reason why it would even be discussed in the context of this development. All properties acquired to date were negotiated with willing sellers.

I am suddenly seeing stoplights being erected in the area. Is redevelopment of the New Brighton Elementary site already changing my neighborhood?

No. The temporary stop lights being erected on Old Highway 8, 10th Street, and Long Lake Road are being erected by MnDOT in anticipation of local traffic increases that will be caused by the I-35W reconstruction project set to begin in March of 2019. These temporary stop lights will be removed when the I-35W reconstruction project is complete.

Where can I learn more about the need for affordable housing or get additional information on these questions?

Please visit the City’s website (www.newbrightonmn.gov) for more information. Under the “News” tab at the top of the website, you will find a direct link to information on the “New Brighton Elementary School Redevelopment.” We will be updating this page periodically as more information becomes available.