Drawn by its affordability and central location, Michael Denny moved to the Corcoran neighborhood more than 36 years ago. Cities across America were in decline but even then, he said, he had a feeling good things were going to happen in this corner of south Minneapolis.
The evidence in support of Denny’s hunch has been piling up ever since.
Over the last decades, the neighborhood has welcomed new businesses, a YMCA and a weekly farmer’s market that now draws more than 66,000 visitors a year. In 2004, the neighborhood celebrated the opening of the METRO Blue Line and its Lake Street/Midtown Station.
On Monday, neighborhood leaders joined officials from Hennepin County and partnering organizations to mark the start of another transformational project: a redevelopment that will bring a new county Human Services Center, retail space and more than 500 housing units to land immediately west of the LRT station.
For Denny, who raised two children in a home just blocks from the site, the promise of more neighborhood vitality further affirms his decision to call Corcoran home.
“I could sense something was happening when I moved here, and I still have a really good feeling about the neighborhood,” he said after the groundbreaking ceremony. “I’m all in – I found it (home).”
Getting to this point hasn’t come easily, however. For more than a decade, officials and community leaders have been talking about how to enliven the area surrounding the light-rail station.
Successful negotiations allowed the county to take control of more than six acres, including land used for a Metro Transit Park & Ride and a Minneapolis Public Schools building where adult learning classes are held. The Park & Ride closed earlier this year, and MPS will remain on site while searching for a new location nearby.
The Human Services Center, including retail space along Lake Street, is expected to open in late 2017. More than 100 apartments are also part of the first phase, with more housing to be phased in over time.
County officials pursued the deal as part of an effort to create a decentralized network of service centers to better serve the community. More than a quarter of county residents receive county assistance and more than 16 percent of those people are expected to use the new Lake Street location.
In addition to giving people better access to services, the redevelopment will bring housing and job opportunities that benefit existing residents and draw more people to the city.
“What we have now is a chance to re-create urban America as a place of opportunity,” Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said.
Opportunity is also on the minds of more than 50 vendors at the Midtown Farmer’s Market, which wrapped up its 13th season in October. Though plans remain in the works, organizers look forward to having more conveniences for sellers and a better environment for all who attend.
“This will establish a real sense of permanency and create something that really feels like a home for the market,” Market Manager Miguel Goebel said.
The start of construction comes just months after a new senior housing project opened across Lake Street. That $45 million project includes 68 affordable apartments, a street-level plaza and a rooftop patio. (The Council provided a $1 million grant to support the transit-oriented development by Minneapolis-based Wellington Management.)
Transit-Oriented Development isn’t isolated to the Lake Street/Midtown Station area either.
Be the Match’s 900 employees will soon move into new offices next to Target Field Station, one of several developments in the rapidly-changing North Loop neighborhood. In St. Paul, a portion of a $28 million project that will bring more than 100 affordable apartments to what was a vacant used car dealership north of the Green Line’s Hamline Avenue Station will open in December.
Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said these and other projects that bring jobs, housing and services to areas that are well-served by transit make the Twin Cities more accessible and equitable.
“Transit-oriented development is about letting people choose where to live, work and recreate — and giving them the freedom to make those choices without worrying about the financial burdens they’ll face when it comes to transportation,” he said.
'Transit Village' At a Glance
> Opening in 2017: Hennepin County Human Services Center, 114 workforce housing units, 8,000 square feet of retail space fronting Lake Street, a transit plaza and parking.
> Later phases will include the public gathering space, more than 400 residences and additional parking.
> The project is being developed by L&H Station development, LLC, a joint venture between BKV Group and Launch Properties.
> Hennepin County anchors transit-friendly development in south Minneapolis
> Star Tribune: Officials break ground on development at Lake St. and Hiawatha Av.
> Route 21: A crosstown with culture, community
> Metro Transit: Transit-Oriented Development