New food co-op, senior housing look likely on East Seventh


The large, empty swath of land along East Seventh Street is filled only with snow, but a couple of developments are on their way to filling the space in with a food co-op and a senior housing complex. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

A rough site plan of the East Seventh lot show the senior housing (at left) on the south side, and the co-op to the north end of the lot, at the intersection of Bates Ave. and East Seventh St. (Submitted photo)

With a go-ahead from the city, developers of a senior housing complex and a food co-op are well on their way to fruition.

St. Paul gave Dominium and Mississippi Market “temporary developer” status in December, giving them sole rights to the large city-owned lot along East Seventh Street for a year.

“Now it’s official,” said Eduardo Barrera, project manager for the city’s planning and economic development department, who’s managing the East Seventh site.

“Their plans seem to be aligned to what the city goals for the area are ... and it does fit the overall comprehensive plan of the city,” he said.

Deanna Foster, director of the Dayton’s Bluff district council, said the city’s move, although subtle, was noteworthy.

“That’s a good sign that there’s something official now, instead of just kind of on a handshake,” she said.

Meanwhile, the developers are looking ahead to see what needs to be done to make the projects a reality.

“We’re highly motivated to see this project happen,” said Gail Grahm, general manager of Mississippi Market. “We’re hard at work, digging into the numbers,” she said. 

Finding financing

To nail down financing, Mississippi Market will launch a member loan campaign, in addition to seeking out bank lending.

“We always want to have investment from our lenders as well as primary bankers,” she said.

Graham said that so far, the co-op has heard mostly positive feedback about the prospect of adding a location.

“We’ve been getting positive comments on our Facebook page and things like that,” she said.

The idea is to be in a place where the organization can arrange a purchase agreement with the city and actually proceed with buying the land within a year.

Preliminary plans aim to put in a 11,500 square foot retail grocery store on East Seventh Street -- the building would also house a kitchen to support the company’s delis and wholesale operations.

Graham noted that “there’s still work that we have to do to be able to say, ‘Yeah, this is a done deal.’”

Owen Metz, developer at Dominium, which is proposing a 100-unit senior housing complex, said the company’s feeling confident moving forward.

“But it’s not done ‘til it’s done,” he added. He said major hurdles for the company include lining up all of the proper financing, which would come partially from tax-exempt bonds from the city, as well as through tax-increment financing. In addition, he said Dominium would likely need to secure environmental cleanup funds to get the site cleaned up from its former use as a hospital laundry facility.

“We look forward to continuing the conversations (with the city and neighbors),” he said.

Traffic concerns

Barrera noted that the developments could bring added traffic to the area, which has been a cause for concern among nearby residents.

“When development comes to a site, it always brings more traffic,” he said. “But we’re working with the neighborhood and the (Dayton’s Bluff) district council to minimize the impact.”

The redevelopment site, which spans half a block of East Seventh Street between Bates Avenue, has been vacant since before it was bought by the city in 2004. The city then sold it to a set of Seventh Street business partners who were going to develop 60 single-family homes. When that didn’t pan out, in lieu of foreclosure, the city took the property back.

The city then took to the task of finding a new developer, by releasing a request for inquiries in June of 2012.

Part of a big picture

Foster noted that the senior housing and food co-op would add to other new developments along East Seventh Street -- there will be a new senior housing complex called Dellwood Gardens, a new armored car company on the Port Authority’s Beacon Bluff development, new Metro State University buildings, and a new East Side Enterprise Center where the district council will relocate.

“Seventh Street... is looking to be a very competitive business district,” she said.

Foster also noted that there’s a potential for about $100,000 worth of improvements to East Seventh Street to make it more pedestrian-friendly -- through the city’s Capital Improvement Budget, $97,000 is slotted to make improvements in 2015.

“2014-2015 is going to be a really important redevelopment time,” she said. “People are really going to be noticing that the East Side is a happening place.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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