Pillsbury Commons Development Proposal Faces Opposition

One long-time area resident joins neighbors and city council members in opposing the project.

Although the Pillsbury Commons development project remains in the early stages of planning, it has already run into vocal opposition from Richfield City Council members and Richfield residents.

The roughly $12.6 million development would see a substantial new multi-unit housing development constructed on a largely undeveloped block of Richfield at the corner of 77th Street and Pillsbury Avenue.

Council Members Fred Wroge and Pat Elliott have both voiced concerns over the project's current design, publicly stating their opposition to the Ron Clark Construction and Design firm plans for the project during the Nov. 14, 2011 regular council meeting. Since that meeting, one of the project's most vocal opponents has been neighborhood resident Joe Hoover, a homeowner who lives on Harriet Avenue, one block west of the proposed development site.

“When I started looking into this further and further, it was really outrageous. It wasn’t good for the neighborhood and it wasn’t good for the tenants living there,” Hoover said. “It seems really shortsighted.”


Ron Clark Construction & Design, the Edina-based site developer, is currently planning for the construction of 70 affordable, workforce housing units on the southern portion of the city block. A Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency project, it will be financed through a tax credit program associated with that agency. One to three bedroom units would be available for individuals whose incomes meet qualifying guidelines, with apartments expected to rent for between $775 and $1,075 per month. Four of the 70 units will be reserved for either homeless veterans and their families or individuals and families experiencing long term homelessness.

Those plans contrast with recommended development guidelines approved by the city council in 2008, which suggested that the site be used to develop “an array of housing types to accommodate different household sizes and incomes (low and moderate income families).”

Written in partnership with the Corridor Housing Initiative, the 2008 guidelines call for development of the property with low- to medium-density housing targeted at mixed-income individuals and families. For development purposes low-density housing is defined as accommodating six or fewer individuals per acre, while medium-density housing accommodates up to 12 individuals per acre.

Director John Stark said that, while the proposal put forward by the developer differs from those guidelines, however, the city is under no obligation to restrict construction because of the earlier recommendations.

“The city council approved the [2008] guidelines, but they’re just that,” Stark said. “They’re an important thing for the city council to consider when they get this land use application.”

Concerns About the Development

Hoover emphasized that his objections to the current plans did not stem from concerns over property values in his neighborhood, which he said had been a concern expressed by some of his neighbors.

Hoover lives in the same single-family home his uncle and mother were raised in, originally purchased by his grandparents in 1947. He said that his objections to the project had more to do with concerns over the neighborhood’s quality of life—and what he felt had been underhanded tactics by the city—than with possible depreciation in home prices. Hoover also remained concerned about building a development entirely comprised of affordable housing units, rather than the mix of market rate and affordable housing units he said were part of the original guidelines.

“It’s really not about property values, it’s really about the breaking of trust and what is good for the neighborhood,” he said. “It doesn’t serve anyone. The tenants in 100 percent affordable or low-income buildings tend to become stigmatized.”

More than any single issue, Hoover is against construction of a high-density housing development comprised entirely of affordable units, and also maintains the development’s design is out of character for the neighborhood.

Stark said concerns about both property values and increases in crime had been expressed during public meetings about the project, but that he’d been unable to track down quantifiable evidence that legitimated either concern. Stark said , director of , said he wasn't concerned about crime increasing as a result of the project.

Stark said that the primary concern with the Pillsbury Commons development from the City of Richfield’s standpoint is an increase in traffic—and the public safety issues that accompany such increases.

Stark pointed out that, regardless of whether certain resident concerns could be backed up with evidence, he saw any and all feedback as a positive for the city.

“Every project that happens in Richfield there’s a lot of impassioned residents. It’s a good thing,” he said. “I’d worry if there weren’t people who were impassioned about these topics.”

Pillsbury Commons Going Forward

The City of Richfield has thus far made no commitments to the development project aside from agreeing to sell city-owned property at the site to Ron Clark Construction & Design at the appraised price of $415,936. Before construction could move forward, the city council would need to rezone the land and give land-use approval.

“I think that there’s a lot left to be determined on this project, and I guess I would just want people to know that there’s this sense that this is a done deal, and that’s far from the truth,” Stark said. “It’s much earlier in the process than people think.”

Financing for the development is still being worked out, although the bulk of the project's financing is expected to come from the sale of federal tax credits to private investors. Mike Roebuck, a spokesperson for Ron Clark Construction & Design, said the company would be working on addressing concerns voiced by city council members and residents as the project moves forward.

Kevin O'Donovan January 05, 2012 at 07:24 PM
The proposed rental fees beginning at $775 are higher than one bedroom units at any apartment building on either Oliver or Penn Aves between 75th St and 76th St., or at Century Court on the southwest corner of 76th and Penn. Will these units be available to undocumented immigrants, and will they qualify to receive taxpayer subsidies for housing? Will they accept Section 8? If so will the number of units available for Section 8 be limited?
Drew Miller January 06, 2012 at 04:10 AM
According to Ron Clark Construction & Design spokesperson Mike Roebuck, units planned for Pillsbury Commons do not qualify as subsidized or Section 8 housing, as each tenant would pay the full amount of their rent. As part of the Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency (MHFA) program which Ron Clark Construction expects will finance much of the project, rents at Pillsbury Commons would be 50 percent of the MHFA published rates for Hennepin County. Residents will need to meet minimum and maximum income levels to qualify; currently a family of four could have an income level of no more than $49,620. I'm not sure about the availability of units for undocumented immigrants -- I simply don't know what kind of paperwork would need to be provided in order for residents to qualify for the MHFA guidelines, or whether such documentation would be prohibitive for undocumented immigrants interested in renting there.
Barry L. January 06, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Hi, Drew, My name is Barry LeBlanc and I think Mike Roebuck has you a little confused. Here is the fact: 66 units will be section 42 Workforce Housing, Please goggle ,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-Income_Housing_Tax_Credit and the 4 units will be of section 8 or close to this category. As the 4 units will be controlled by the Simpson Housing Services, www.simpsonhousing.org The Simpson Family Housing provides supportive services for families with children in both site-based and scattered-site housing settings. Participants receive a rental subsidy and meet with an advocate weekly to work on stability goals. They also work with families whose periods of homelessness stem from challenges such as institutional racism, generational poverty, family violence, mental illness, and chemical dependency. Applicants must come from an emergency shelter or domestic violence shelter, or have a recent eviction notice or Unlawful Detainer and are homeless. Applicants must currently have full custody of their children or be referred by Child Protection Services for family reunification. Simpson pays a rental subsidy directly to the landlord each month as long as the family is in our program. So you can email me as I have the application process from the 66 unit Steven Scott management will provide. Please contact me at barry0404@yahoo.com Thank you
Barry L. January 06, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Caitlin, Yes the city is hold the project back for a mere 5,000 retainer until June 2012 for Ron Clark. The bigger question should be is Menards just bought the yellow building in front of the store on Lyndale for 4.2 million dollars and Richfield is only asking $419 thousand for 3.2 acres of land, why? Trader Joes would snap this up in a heart beat or a store like Lunds. The post office needs a place to expand, bring jobs to Richfield.
Barry L. January 06, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Hi, Yes there a number of projects that the city is allowing to be bid on, Take a around the old K Mart, 80/20 and then look at the prime real estate across the street. That is being held for the same developer that went belly up at 76th and Lyndale, another 80/20 project..That was suppose to be owner occupied now the banks are renting out with tax breaks..Too bad the City Council sees Richfield as a dumping ground for work force housing, we are becoming a place for Edina and Bloomington dump the poverty and senors. It is easy to find what is being funded or who is applying for funds. www.mnhousing.gov
Barry L. January 06, 2012 at 06:17 AM
If any one wants any document we found why this building has been switched from a owner occupied town homes to a 4 story tall 153 bed room 100 Public funded house please email me at barry0404@yahoo.com
Barry L. January 06, 2012 at 06:20 AM
From: Barb Halverson <bhalverson@steven-scott.com> To: 'Barry LeBlanc Sandia Aerospace' <barry0404@yahoo.com> Cc: john.stark@cityofrichfield.org; Steve.Devich@cityofrichfield.org; citycouncil@cityofrichfield.org; Ron Clark <ron@ronclark.com>; 'Carey Vaughan' <cvaughan@steven-scott.com> Sent: Friday, December 2, 2011 3:38 PM Subject: RE: Pillsbury Commons Questions Barry Yes, we are leasing under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (informally called Section 42, referring to the IRS tax code). Pillsbury Common’s incomes are restricted to 60% of the Adjusted Median Income and rents at 50% of the Adjusted Median Income. The current maximum rents for a 2Br is$931.00. The rent is not adjusted based on income or family size so anyone renting a 2 Br pays the same amount whether it’s as in your example, three people or one person or two people. This rent could change on an annual basis after the new Adjusted Median Incomes are published by HUD. I will have to arrange for the application to be available. I don’t have one at my desk I can forward. I should be able to get one next week. Barbara J. Halverson President Phone (952) 540-8631 | Cell (952) 292-6181 | Fax (952) 540-8601 bhalverson@steven-scott.com
Amy Zimmerman January 06, 2012 at 06:21 AM
It sounds like the city council is sort of reserving the land for Ron Clark? Why?
Barry L. January 06, 2012 at 06:31 AM
It is all about TIF, follow the money and you come back to Richfield RHA, you see they get 15% off the top to fund other projects in Richfield. It is mind bogling to under stand but the RHRA http://www.cityofrichfield.org/Videos/CurrentlyPlaying.htm We also have a large volume of documents, you can email me at barry0404@yahoo.com and we will send the scanned documents that we have. Please also visit the facebook.com/richfieldminnesota
Kevin O'Donovan January 06, 2012 at 12:43 PM
It sounds a bit like Cabrini Green comes to Richfield.
Diane February 18, 2012 at 01:41 AM
If he could read and attended the meetings, he would not make such unfounded statements! I will counter by saying racism continues in Richfield!
Diane February 18, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Let me be clear the "he" is Kevin O'Donovan.
Kevin O'Donovan February 18, 2012 at 03:04 AM
If you have read the continuing saga "Pillsbury Commons" you will notice the residency requirements are constantly being lowered. The initial reports indicated that a small portion of the units were to be allocated to those in need of housing assistance. It now seems that it will be all of the units. There are plenty of low income rental units in Richfield. If someone wants to build more, let them use their own money. Integration is not the issue, condensation of poverty is. Diane,you seem to be the one seeing racism, I am seeing a group of troubled souls being recruited to live in Richfield. Government supported housing only supports the builder. In the long term the residents and neighborhood suffer. I use the example of Cabrini Green do public notoriety. We can also look at the other projects that Valerie Jarrett and friends built and left to rot in Chicago for additional examples. Read "Culture of Corruption" by Michelle Malkin for references.
Barry L. February 18, 2012 at 06:41 AM
Diane, Please have a look on www.facebook.com/richfieldminnesota as the documents have been up loaded about this whole process. We are not against " Work force house" that contains a 80% market rate and 20% work force housing. It is the 100% work force housing that will stigmatize the building and city. PLEASE have a deeper look, as it is not just about 70 units 154 bed rooms, it is about PHASE "2" with an additional 84 units. Do the math on the north lot we would have close to 343 bed rooms of poverty living in a city block the size of a Richfield city block of 16 homes. So In my next statement , You will need to email me direct for me to send a PDF of the land directly south of Proposed Ron Clark Pillsbury Commons that had applied for an additional 50 units of fixed income. The only reason it was kicked back this time it was either or...But they are still in the hunt to gain the same funding from MN Housing. Richfeild HRA is still looking to turn this area into some thing less then a virbrant city. We already have by MET Council standard 29% affordable housing...Where do you suggest the level of poverty? 40% 50 % or could we ask EDINA to house some of the work force they are talking about. I would love to hear your thoughts as I am thinking we dont have another 250+ jobs to support this housing unit? richfieldminnesota@gmail.com We welcome all views. Barry
Barry L. February 18, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Also so you know, when Ron Clark the builder said there would be one Section 8 and then on city council meeting Jan 24 it jumped to 3 then on Feb 14th at city council it jumped to another 19 units to be possible section 8, It is a shell game for the builder...Also who if you follow the money, Who stands to make the cash? Why are they putting this against a rail road track? Why ware house people? where is the vision of Richfield?
Ghislaine Ball February 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM
we later found out that this project was not receiving a one time subsidy of $1 million - but that the project will receive $1 million per year for the next ten years.
Ghislaine Ball February 29, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Brie - we found out last night at the City Council's special work session that the proposed Lyndale Gardens development was not in fact 80/20 mixed but that there were two buildings - one 100% affordable and the OTHER was 80/20 mixed - not sure which is 80 which is 20.
Kevin O'Donovan March 01, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Maybe this sounds like a Valerie Jarrett/Cabrini Green Combo Platter.Going to a City Council meeting is useless. When there were open meetings about Walser Buick/Best Buy; at the end of the meeting Council members took out pre-typed sheets of paper that they read to restate their unwavering positions. Nothing was going to change and nothing did. TIF is borderline criminal. The poor Public Safety officer was unfairly put in a no win situation. The deceit, distortions and lies coming out of this project should make everyone a skeptic, and everyone an opponent of this blatant abuse of public trust and money.
Greg March 03, 2012 at 06:52 AM
Richfield has shown great potential in recent years, but this sounds like a step backwards. If it smells fishy its time to walk. No, I take that back - it's time to run! I'm wondering, has anyone asked Ron if he's built similar 'projects' in his own neighborhood?
Barry L. March 03, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Yes he has been asked, Ron has a ART center named after him in Eden Prairie. This is only one of two. Now this past week The Cornerstone Group did a bait and switch, at Lyndale Gardens they said a Dorm was being built but no one knew it was 100% affordable section 42 housing. The Cornerstone Group is in search for this LITHC funding, for a 50 unit, 5 stories tall 100% affordable housing with phase 2 and phase 3 with 20% each, how many units in one area will that be now? and how many section 8 units? What is the TIF amount and for how , who knew at City Hall? long? Where is the vision for the Richfield last prime location?http://richfield.patch.com/articles/lyndale-gardens-redevelopment-financing-tenants-unclear And the second web site is the audio recording of this meeting at city hall on Tuesday FEB 28: http://soundcloud.com/richfieldminnesota/lyndale-gardens-life-college
Barry L. March 03, 2012 at 01:26 PM
We have to ask the city where is the level of affordable housing? By a June 2010 memo sent to City Council Richfield from City Manager at that time we were all ready at 29% affordable housing by MET council standards. We have roughly 16000 housing units, Which are 9000 single detach homes and 6000 apartments. The MET standards cover all the housing units not just apartments. Richfield rental apartments are at 55% affordable by MET council. Where dose the madness stop? A good question to ask CITY HALL is why dont they ask where the developer is getting the cash to build before seeking approval...
Richfield Commoners United March 05, 2012 at 05:51 PM
So this is how the city works...LETS SEE, who knows what? This is about another 5 story tall 50 unit section 42 housing unit on prime real estate : 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 08, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Barry L. March 09, 2012 at 05:14 PM
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.
Richfield Commoners United May 16, 2012 at 02:02 PM
At the May 8th City Council meeting it was revealed that members of the city council & HRA commission had been privately contacted by Ron Clark to discuss his new proposal. The topic was brought up when Fred Wroge announced that Ron Clark had called his private phone to request a meeting. Councilman Wroge declined Clark's request, Tom Fritzhenry also declined saying "If he has something to say he can say it to all of us." , When Wroge's 'outing' of Clark prompted Councilman Elliott's admission that he too had been contacted and met with Ron Clark, saying he would not apologize for behind closed door meetings
Richfield Commoners United May 16, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Given that Ron Clark Construction has received ample time to present their plans to the City Council, HRA and the Planning Commission in meeting after meeting it is very suspect that they would want to meet in round robin format with the HRA and City Council and circumvent Minnesota's Open Meeting Law. Where is the transparency with dealing with Ron Clark? Shouldn't his plans be discussed in the open? What does Ron Clark have to say to them about Pillsbury Commons that cannot be said in a public meeting? While it is unknown if Ron Clark Construction violated any laws, the ethics of this matter is certainly not becoming of a recipient of the Minnesota Business Ethics Award and someone who says, “Honesty, integrity and fair play have always been of utmost importance to us." Please contact members of the City Council and the HRA and let them know that meetings with Ron Clark Construction or their representatives outside of public meetings is not ok.
Richfield Commoners United June 13, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Ghislaine Ball June 13, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I'm super happy to say that the city council did listen to us!! Next steps 1) we need to stay engaged with what's going on before it bubbles over - the process can only give you what you put into it. 2) Catch up on some sleep 3) Figure out how to cram two weeks of weeding into two days.
Richfield Commoners United June 13, 2012 at 08:09 PM
So Ron Clark has a rental Property and he has not paid rental Lic either? Let's see who will call and say why is Ron Clark getting things for free? http://www16.co.hennepin.mn.us/pins/addrresult.jsp Proerty ID#34-028-24-34-0049 Address:7600 PILLSBURY AVE S Taxpayer Name & Address: RICHFIELD PROPERTIES LLC, 7500 78TH ST W, EDINA MN 55439 Page 20 of 26...HUMMM do not see Ron Clark paying rental fee? WHY? http://www.cityofrichfield.org/permits/docs/Richfield___List_of_Rental_Properties.pdf
Richfield Commoners United June 13, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Please call about Ron Clark rental property: Steven L. Devich City Manager City of Richfield 612-861-9702


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