Dayton’s Bluff development gaining traction


The Village on Rivoli site sits just south of Phalen Boulevard and just east of I-35E, with a view of downtown. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Village on Rivoli is a big housing project that’s been a long time in the making.

It’s been in the works for Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services since before 2006.

The proposed plan would put 34 two-story, single-family homes on unused land just to the east of Interstate 35E, just south of Phalen Boulevard. The brand new housing would be complete with a pedestrian courtyard and a prime view of downtown St. Paul, as well as a glimpse of Minneapolis.

Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services just received a grant from St. Paul’s Neighborhood STAR program to offset some of the expenses. Jim Erchul, director at Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, said that with the current housing market, it can cost more to build a house on the East Side than it’s worth to sell.

“When the economy was really strong... the math actually worked,” he said. “That math doesn’t work right now.”

Roxanne Young from St. Paul’s Planning and Economic Development department said the city saw an improving market in the lower East Side, which played into the decision to fund it. Village on Rivoli also fits well with other city-backed neighborhood development projects on the East Side, she said.

“Our staff felt pretty strongly that now is the time to ... get it going,” she said. With strong support from the project through the District 5 Community Council, as well as from city council, she said the case for it was compelling.

The homes that Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services are proposing would cost roughly $233,000 apiece, but would only have an estimated market value of $175,000, according to the group’s proposal to the city. That leaves a $58,000 gap between the cost and the value of the homes.

So, the $175,000 grant from the city will make up some of the difference between what the houses can sell for and what they’ll cost to build. 

But Erchul said additional funds are needed, which he’s hoping will come in the form of a grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The housing group asked for about $600,000, which would make them fully funded for phase one of the project. They’ll hear about that large chunk of change in October or November.

Phase one would be a 13-home portion of the development with a total price tag somewhere in the $3.25 million range, and could begin as early as next spring, Erchul said. It could be that they’ll start in the spring on a part of the project even without the extra funding, he said.

Brownfield

The old plot of land is a combination of county- and city-owned space. The place used to host a variety of industrial activities, including a spot for city street sweepers to dump waste, as well as an old steam locomotive repair shop and other rail-related businesses.

It’s also been the site of some uncontrolled dumping -- residents would leave discarded items there, like old couches.

The site has since been cleaned up and is sitting ready for development.

Village on Rivoli was originally in discussions about the Phalen Corridor, Young said. But it’s taken a while to come to fruition.

But, once complete, Erchul insists the housing will be some of the best in the area.

As for now and until 2014, the site’s a fenced-off empty area full of weeds and the occasional wildflower.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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