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UPDATED: Lyndale Gardens Financing, Tenants Remain Unclear

The Cornerstone Group is still committed to affordable housing.

*A natural foods grocery store and the possibility of a Fratallone's Ace Hardware store and restaurant were among the prospective tenants discussed for the Lyndale Garden Center site Tuesday night.

*While Council Member Fred Wroge asserted he knew the hardware store chain was committing to the project, Colleen Carey, president of The Cornerstone Group development firm, was unable to confirm the rumor. Carey told Patch and audience members any prospective tenants were working with the firm under a confidentiality agreement and names of tenants will not be released until after a lease had been signed.

Few other details emerged Tuesday night at a special work session conducted jointly by Richfield's City Council, Planning Commission and Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The Cornerstone Group presented detailed site plans for Lyndale Garden Center, a proposed redevelopment project encompassing three separate properties adjacent to the northwest corner of 64th Street and Lyndale Avenue. The development's signature building incorporates parts of the former Lyndale Garden Center into a refurbished structure that will include both retail and community gathering spaces.

Developers did detail one setback: Financial constraints will likely keep Minnesota Life College from leasing space in the new development. The college is a Richfield-based nonprofit vocational and life skills training program for adults with learning differences.

The news alarmed some in attendance, prompting City Council Member Fred Wroge to ask about Lyndale Garden’s financing going forward.

“Are we talking one hundred percent affordable (housing), so you get tax credits?” he asked.

New housing developments composed entirely of affordable housing have become a sore point of late in Richfield, as seen in the widespread dissatisfaction among city residents regarding the proposed  development.

Despite the concerns, Colleen Carey, Cornerstone’s president, said she was still committed to building additional mixed-income housing at Lyndale Gardens.

“At the moment, I’m not proposing we change that,” she said, adding her belief that a mixed-income development would be better for everyone involved.

The company has successfully acquired all three properties and will be preparing to submit final development plans to the city in the coming months. Financing for portions of the project—including possible funding from the Met Council, along with certain Hennepin County programs—remains unclear.

Residents interested in more details from the developer can read The Cornerstone Group's blog.

Editor's Note: Details were added to this story for clarification and are marked with an asterisk (*).

Barry L. March 01, 2012 at 11:30 PM
No Thank you for keeping the City residents aware.
Jeff March 02, 2012 at 06:21 AM
As a neighbor of this project I have been very excited for it to move forward. However affordable housing is not the way to go! There are more than enough affordable apartment units (in poor condition) in the area on 63rd and Lyndale and on 65th around Lake Richfield. A mixed use project is the way to go! I sincerely hope our elected officials keep the wishes of the neighborhood in mind when they decide to approve this project.
Barry L. March 02, 2012 at 06:41 AM
I sincerely hope our elected officials keep the wishes of the neighborhood in mind when they decide to approve this project., I hope so too. and Pillsbury commons is the start of this. It is not to late to join and help reshape Richfield vision. They ( City Elected ) seem to want to throw Richfield under the bus
David Haines March 02, 2012 at 06:58 AM
I feel this is exactly what Cornerstone wanted everybody to think.
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) March 02, 2012 at 02:17 PM
That's my job!
Barry L. March 02, 2012 at 05:05 PM
On a note the Richfield HRA approved on Dec 19 for a inventory of housing. You can view the HRA archives at minute 41 about the rental housing inventory and needs assessments. And draw a concusion from the HRA discussion ...http://www.cityofrichfield.org/Videos/Archives.htm
Kevin O'Donovan March 03, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Barry,is throwing Richfield under the bus part of the DFL plan for public transportation,or is that the Met Council? David Haines point on the amount of available low income rentals is a good one. There seems to be plenty of vacancies along Penn Ave and Oliver near Best Buy. Many are in the six hundred per month range and some take section eight. If the government didn't act as if they owned the properties, there might be more available. At the risk of being called a racist, will we need to add police officers to handle these problem ridden folks? The whole deal sounds like Cabrini Green West to me. Has any government subsidized housing project not turned into a crime ridden slum? Is Valerie Jarrett involved? She and Michelle Obama have a notorious history with this type of problem project? People with problems do better once they are integrated into normal settings, and not by creating an economic ghetto, where they will be stigmatized by their address.
Barry L. March 03, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Kevin I don't think its any party that's throwing Richfield under the bus, but I do think there is bad policies in place and should be reviewed before letting developers take on huge projects. The First question city hall should ask when they are approached is WHO IS GOING TO FUND the project. It is being baited and switch, I wounder how many of the residents around that lake know whats coming, as it was presented as one thing but now it is a 5 story tall, 50 units, LOW Fixed Income based section 42...How Many section 8 unit will there be inside ? How will that help Richfield, who benefits ..the Cornerstone Group...They will get 5 to 7 Million dollars to do this program..and XXX amount per year.Who benefits? Not the Richfield Tax Payer...
Kevin O'Donovan March 03, 2012 at 08:36 AM
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Cornerstone Group is not expanding in Bloomington, but chose Richfield. Why? The development at Penn Ave and American Blvd is touted as one that serves an upscale clientele. Why is it that Bloomington seems to seek the Fine China and Silverware set and Richfield goes after the dishwashers? Is that "Fair and Balanced"? Which option provides the possibility to be a contributor to the tax rolls, and which a burden? These type of government intrusive projects,like the Cornerstone proposal, seem to be a Full Employment Plan for Social Workers. It's one thing to help someone out of a ditch, it's quite different to call the hole a Government Assistance Program. Take note of the first three letters in "Assistance" Therein, lies a clue. Pres. Reagan said that it's frightening when you hear the words "Hello. We're from the Federal Government,and we're here to help!" Can't we help people out of the ditch, without sending down a home remodeling group, first?
Barry L. March 03, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Keven, Good Question. The larger question would be why is Richfield becoming a bed room community for the working poor? Edina is building a housing project on CITY OWN PROPERTY just like Pillsbury Commons but yet not one affordable housing unit, not one rental unit, not even a servant of the EDINA could live there unless they built quarters for them. MET council awarded money to EDINA for the thought of building section 42 housing on the YMCA site. Oh yea the residents would of been in Richfield school district. Well it was quoted by city officials that they dont care what other cities are doing, they will let MET council deal with them. See the other Richfield news paper
Gretchen Nicholls March 03, 2012 at 10:32 PM
It's important to keep in mind that the Lyndale Garden site is proposed as a mixed-use, mixed-income project. To combine all of those uses you don't need to put them all in the same building. And in fact, it is far more difficult to finance a project when there are multiple uses combined in one building. The Cornerstone Group is a phenomenal developer that will integrate the variety of uses on the site that will maximize the appeal and connectivity to the surrounding area. At the Lyndale Garden Center CDI community meetings last summer, it was most interesting to learn about the complexities of the site, and the creative problem-solving that will be needed to make it succeed. Everyone agrees that this is an incredibly important site for the city, and yet it has remained vacant and unused for over ten years. Mixed-use, mixed-income horizontal development is what it will take to succeed.
Kevin O'Donovan March 03, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Is this the same Gretchen Nicholls that was involved in the Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan in Minneapolis, that in 2000 was described in the "City Pages" as a "Money Pit"? Is it true that only fifty-two percent of the money went to housing and a large chunk went to consulting fees and studies? What's the division in Richfield? Who gets what ,when ,where,and why? Please answer the questions directly and not rhetorically. Let's spare the euphemisms. Is this Deja-Vu all over again? Sounds like rock and roll, that ain't got no soul.
David Haines March 03, 2012 at 11:48 PM
I would like to know too...Good questions Kevin! "Everyone agrees that this is an incredibly important site for the city, and yet it has remained vacant and unused for over ten years." I have lived in Richfield less than 10 years and Lyndale Garden Center was open for a couple years after I moved in so I call BS on that statement. Do you have a financial interest in the project? Do you live in Richfield?
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) March 04, 2012 at 05:37 AM
I'm working on a follow-up to this. Stay tuned.
Gretchen Nicholls March 04, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I'm not familiar with the City Pages article in 2000 you are referring to, and don't know what the reference is to a neighborhood development plan (of which there are many) that was considered to be a "money pit". I'm not a developer. I'm a program officer for the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Our mission is to help community residents transform neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities of choice and opportunity - good places to work, do business and raise children. LISC works to mobilize national and local resources to provide loans, grants, and equity investments; local, statewide and national policy support; and technical and management assistance. I do not live in the city of Richfield, but I have worked with the city on a variety of development opportunity sites, such as the Lyndale Garden Center. To David Haines point, I apologize if I am mistaken about the number of years it has been vacant. As we talked with the community, the perception was that it had been vacant for a considerable amount of time, and there had been a number of developers that had tried to do something with the site that failed.
Barry L. March 04, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Gretchen, Here is the link to refresh your quotes on the subject, http://www.citypages.com/2000-05-24/news/money-pit/6/
Gretchen Nicholls March 04, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Yes, that was my quote. I was critical of the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) largely because it fell short of it's potential to transform and advance neighborhood-based planning. But I'm not sure how that's relevant to the topic of the Lyndale Garden Center.
Barry L. March 04, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Gretchen, You left a message but it was not posted, but to answer, we need facts and truths in these projects. So to me that is how it is relevant... Gretchen Nicholls commented on the article UPDATED: Lyndale Gardens Financing, Tenants Remain Unclear "Yes, that was my quote. I was critical of the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) largely because it fell short of it's potential to transform and advance neighborhood-based planning. But I'm not sure how that's relevant to the topic of the Lyndale Garden Center."
Gretchen Nicholls March 04, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I would be glad to offer any information I can about the Lyndale Garden Center project and the community conversation that informed the City and the developer about what residents felt should be development objectives for the site. I would also be glad to share my knowledge of project financing, and the challenges that developers face when trying to put these mixed use, mixed income projects together. I would also like to learn more about your concerns. Let me know if you would like to discuss further (gnicholls@lisc.org).
Barry L. March 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
You see there is bait and switch. It is not that I am against affordable housing, I am against bad housing policy. I am against people that dont LIVE in Richfield telling why these plans work GREAT...Now that the residents are finding out that from the begging the intention was LIHTC -Section 42 housing instead of DORMS, how will you present this at the next property information meeting? Truth be told I was awed by The Cornerstone Group presentation. But Know I think the city residents are owed an apology for miss leading them about the DORM and then a full finical spread what you are about to do with who's money on a full page advertisement. If The Cornerstone Group just did this in the open...my be this would be under stood.
Kevin O'Donovan March 04, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Gretchen, If you type your name and do a Google search, Whoop!!! There You Are!!! That you would have no curiosity about the potential slander, strikes me as a bit odd. People that rely on publicity to advance their work generally know every objection and are very sensitive to criticism.That chameleons are masters at camouflage is not so surprising. They remain chameleons. Soldiers don't announce an ambush.They surprise. Some used car salesman use a technique to hide negative information and provide cover. It is called "looping". Customers can hear whatever they choose to. He never makes a definitive statement. "If you ever have a problem,come see me, and I'll see that it gets fixed". You do come see me when your car breaks,and he does fix it. The question is "Who pays the bill"? I think you might know the answer to this,and several other questions. Do you? Are you trying to surprise us! How nice!
Joe Hoover March 05, 2012 at 05:53 AM
So we need to circle a different kind of market for this product and that's not a simple thing to do. The way the market works right now is people buy tax credits or they buy into a market rate housing project and the ones that buy into the market rate housing project don't want to take tax credit risks and the ones that take tax credit risks don't want to buy into a market rate housing project. I agree with Fred that that is the wrong way to develop affordable housing in a community and we are working on trying to solve that. So the better thing from my opinion would be to build a hundred and (inaudible) just like we have been talking about and have affordable housing mixed in amongst all the others. The reality of the way it gets financed right now is that is not possible." Listen to it yourself: http://soundcloud.com/richfieldminnesota/lyndale-gardens-life-college.
Joe Hoover March 05, 2012 at 05:53 AM
Gretchen, Having a "Separate but Equal" building for the low income tenants of the project is not the way to go. It still is stigmatizing to them. Even the developer of the Lyndale Garden site doesn't like 100% low-income housing or thinks its good for the tenants. Quote from the Developer at the Special session: "I absolutely agree with Fred (Wroge) I believe that the absolute best way to provide affordable housing in the community is to build a development and include affordable housing in the development. There is a problem with that, but I think that is a better way to make it happen. It does not stigmatize anybody, it not like its -- there's that building over here and their is another building over their, the problem is the way it is financed. And we have been having some of the conversation with some of the folks that buy the tax credits, because the real issue is you sell these tax credits to investors and the investors says - I only want to buy low income housing tax credits I don't want to buy into your market rate housing. That is not what I am looking to do. (Continued)
Kevin O'Donovan March 05, 2012 at 08:22 AM
Here's a new idea. Build something that people want to buy, or lease with their own money. Arrange for private financing. The Government is not a Public Piggy Bank. Some Piggies would like to think it is. The apartment rental industry is healthy, and the market is good. There aren't any homeless people, suffering for lack of available housing. There are a lot of taxpayers suffering from government intrusion into the housing market. Build something that you and your investors can be proud of, and profit from. If you want to discount the rent for someone, that's your business. If you want to be charitable, donate to VEAP. Donate your own money, and not someone else's.
Annie S. March 05, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Richfield is such a perfect storm for these kinds of projects. Tiny big town, with no where to grow but up. Everyone gets the concept - retail and housing combined is a win for everyone - but why the push for "affordable" housing? Richfield is already affordable - unless you have to pay property tax that is. I am looking forward to new retail to patronize in the area, but at what cost?
Kevin O'Donovan March 05, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Gretchen, My next questions are how much Federal Grant Money and Federal Tax Credits are behind this project, if low income housing is included? How much will it get without low income housing? Isn't part of the idea to give these tax credits to the investors? Isn't this a large part of the investment,and also of the profit, along with a continuing revenue stream for a number of years from the Federal Government? I don't think anyone like Mother Theresa is behind this project. I smell squirrels and that means ACORNs are involved. Am I right? Maybe under an alias?
Richfield Commoners United March 05, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Mayor Debbie Goettel later said she has faith in Cornerstone and Carey, who held several meetings to gather public input about what should be included on the site. The mayor said Carey is not the only developer who has had issues with projects that have gotten caught in the financial crisis. "Things are not like they were five years ago," Goettel said. "She has a lot of ideas we like in this city. ... Colleen has been really transparent about funding. We know where she's at." Goettel called the project "vital." "I actually courted Cornerstone for it because I like [Carey]," she said. "She has got to do one thing at a time. It takes some time to pull things together." http://www.startribune.com/local/west/128533583.html?page=2&c=y
Richfield Commoners United March 05, 2012 at 05:46 PM
So as you see either the Mayor knows or was not told?
Richfield Commoners United March 08, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Here is one great letter in the News today Thank you!!! http://richfield.patch.com/articles/concerned-residents-continue-plea-for-city-to-reconsider-pillsbury-commons
Barry L. March 10, 2012 at 03:14 AM
In dealing with Pillsbury Commons there seems to be confusion over the issue of just what "affordable housing" and low income housing are. The use of "low income housing " is not being derogatory. It is important to realize that all low income housing is affordable but not all affordable housing is low income. To prove the point, can a tenant be "affordable" or "low income"? Many of the apartments in Richfield are affordable - that is, they are affordable to people with low incomes but can be rented by people with high incomes. A low income housing development like Pillsbury Commons is housing that is set aside for people who meet low income guidelines. Richfield is very affordable and has quite a bit of affordable housing. Edina is not affordable has no affordable housing which is why it really needs affordable housing so people with low incomes can afford to live their.

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