After announcing Minnesota Life College would not occupy one of the new buildings proposed for the Lyndale Garden Center development, The Cornerstone Group has recently caught some flack for “revealing” the housing portion of that building would’ve been 100 percent affordable.
“We have always said that we were going to have affordable housing in this project,” Carey said. “And as we went through talks with [Minnesota Life College] they felt the tax credit option would be the most beneficial for them. It was no secret. … There was no bait and switch here.”
Currently, plans stand to rehabilitate the existing garden center building, build two mixed-income housing complexes at the back of the lot, as well as move forward with the building that would’ve housed the college. In addition, the firm is in talks with the owners of the existing apartment complex at the back of the lot to either purchase the building outright or partner with owners.
Carey said she estimated about one-third of all housing planned for the project would be affordable, which the firm had hoped would be mainly met with the Minnesota Life College building.
With the controversial Pillsbury Commons project moving forward, residents' concerns for another 100 percent affordable housing complex—when most believe the city is already affordable—seemed warranted. However, Carey reiterated that while the Minnesota Life College building itself may have been proposed in this way, 100 percent affordable was not on the table in terms of the whole project.
“The [Pillsbury Commons project] is quite different from our project,” she added. “From my perspective the [Pillsbury Commons] location doesn’t support market rate apartments; it doesn’t make financial sense. In my case, 100 percent affordable doesn’t make sense.”
Carey said the firm is hoping to start the renovation of the actual Lyndale Garden Center building by the fall. However, if negotiations with the owners of the existing housing complex move quickly, renovations and plans for that portion could go first.
As far as continuing any work with Minnesota Life College, Carey said she wouldn’t completely count it out. Further, if a deal was reached with the other apartment owners, this could be another option for the college.
“[Minnesota Life College] may come back to us next month and say they can raise the necessary equity [to afford the new building],” she said. “Or they could say they want to work on making an existing building work, or they just may go somewhere else.”
Currently the only funding that has been secured is the acquisition funding that allowed The Cornerstone Group to purchase all land parcels. Once tenants have signed leases and design plans have been finalized, the developers will be able to apply for permanent financing that will allow construction to begin.
Richfield Patch will continue to update readers as new information becomes available on this project.