From Our Current Newsletter
By Herb Frey, AHI Executive Director
Gateway Lofts, Alliance Housing's brand new 46-unit building in North Minneapolis, is now
completely done, inside and out. Believe it or not, it took us seven plus years, from November 2004 when we bought the site, an abandoned gas station, until the last day of 2011, when people started moving in.
Why so long? First AHI had to convince the neighbors and city leaders that affordable housing wasn't the ruin of everything. We finally got their support in June 2009. After that we had to raise the money, select the general contractor, bid the project, and get it all approved. The extra years turn out to have done the project a favor. Instead of two buildings-a small humdrum apartment building on Broadway and six for-sale townhomes on Upton, our architects (Cermak Rhoades Architects) designed one building along Broadway-all rental-with six separate front doors for the six two bedroom apartments plus the main entrance for the 40 units above these two bedrooms. And instead of surface parking, we created a garden along Upton, with the parking disappeared under the rest of the building. Former gas stations are tough to redevelop since they are so polluted. This one required the "export" of 8,378 tons of polluted soil to a special landfill and the import of good soil before laying the foundation. Thankfully, much of this remediation cost was paid by Hennepin County ($341,520), augmented by a big hunk from the project's contingency because the site was even more polluted than we thought. Then, on top of the concrete garage came three floors of wood studs, trusses, and plywood, which was all in place before the tornado hammered North Minneapolis on May 18th. Lucky for Gateway, nature struck four short blocks to the east. Not so much as a fleck of foam board blew off the building. But all the snow that winter plus rain, rain, rain until July made for a pond where the basement floor was to be poured. By October we finally got it dried out enough to install a redesigned concrete floor, which cost another $120,000 which the project didn't have. Luckily, the Family Housing Fund saved the day with a loan that covered most of the fix. Then it was a mad rush to finish the building, get it approved by the inspectors, and have everybody move in. With that all the negatives faded, and the quality and attractiveness of the building stayed-spacious units, rich colors, quality windows, doors, and cabinets, and after the gardens were replanted, a mini-Eden once it grows up. Low-income housing should be like Gateway Lofts: a pleasure to behold. Or to quote Councilmember Don Samuels: "It doesn't get any better than this [Gateway Lofts]; the scale, the parking, landscaping, management of units and engagement with the community is a wonderful combination of evolved sensibilities in housing and community. This is how multi-unit housing is supposed to be."