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Posts in Category: On the METRO

Northstar On the METRO

Several Northstar stations attracting more development 

| Thursday, August 15, 2019 9:57:00 AM

Construction continues near the Northstar Commuter Rail Line’s Coon Rapids/Riverdale Station, where Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates is building a 180 market-rate apartment project called Lyra, and a 71 affordable apartment project called Nova.

Construction continues near the Northstar Commuter Rail Line’s Coon Rapids/Riverdale Station, where Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates is building a 180 market-rate apartment project called Lyra, and a 71 affordable apartment project called Nova.

There's a common sight within blocks of Northstar Commuter Rail stations in Fridley, Coon Rapids and Ramsey: apartment construction.  

The recent and ongoing activity is a sign that, a decade after opening, Minnesota's only commuter rail line is an increasingly attractive amenity for residents who want to avoid driving to and from downtown Minneapolis. 

Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates is doing its part to meet the demand. The company is building a 180 market-rate apartment project called Lyra, and a 71 affordable apartment project called Nova, on previously vacant land next to the Coon Rapids/Riverdale Station. No apartments have been built in Coon Rapids for the past 25 years.

"In apartment development, we're always looking to locate next to demand generators, and the rail stations are an incredible amenity for renters by allowing freedom of movement for work or play without reliance upon a vehicle," said Shane LaFave, Sherman & Associates' director of development. 

The recent construction will add to an already impressive tally.

​Between 2009 and 2017, more than $66 million in multi-family development occurred within a half-mile of Northstar stations. The total does not include Elk River or Big Lake, which lie outside the seven-county metro area.  

The activity is summarized in a new report from Metro Transit's Transit Oriented Development Office. The report also looks at commercial and public investment and summarizes local planning efforts in the corridor. 

"Northstar is generating development interest in communities that have not seen much in a long time," said Lucy Galbraith, Metro Transit's TOD Director. "It's encouraging to see these stations areas begin to reach their full potential." 

Metro Transit's TOD Office is a resource for developers and local partners, and pursues development opportunities on suitable Metro Transit properties.

Working with the City of Fridley and Anoka County, the office has been involved in Sherman Associates' plans to bring three apartment buildings to land just east of the Fridley Station. Combined, the developments will provide nearly 300 new apartments for a range of incomes. 

The land is owned by Fridley's Housing and Redevelopment Authority and leased to Metro Transit for use as a Park & Ride. While the development will replace some parking, commuters will still be able to park at the Fridley Station. Construction is set to begin by the end of this year. 

Just blocks from the Fridley Station, construction also recently wrapped up on an expansion of the Cielo Apartments.  

Further north in Ramsey, a new city center and public park are among the features of a 400-acre redevelopment area immediately east of its rail station. 

While Ramsey's station only opened in 2012, the surrounding area has seen more activity than any other point along the commuter rail line. Combined, there has been $87 million in residential, office and retail activity within a half mile of the Ramsey Station. 

View the Northstar Corridor TOD Report

Learn more about Metro Transit's TOD Office

Minneapolis On the METRO

Developers see future with more people, less parking 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, May 21, 2019 3:19:00 PM

From left to right: Dean Dovolis, founder, CEO and principal at Minneapolis-based DJR Architecture, Inc.; Robb Lubenow, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Yellow Tree Development; Jennifer Jordan, Senior Project Manager for the City of Brooklyn; and Jason Wittenberg, the Manager of Land Use, Design and Preservation for the City of Minneapolis. New residential and commercial buildings can increasingly come with little to no parking, developers and city officials said at a forum hosted by Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office.

“Part of the issue is does the public want it and this is very much what the public wants,” said Dean Dovolis, the founder, CEO and principal at Minneapolis-based DJR Architecture, Inc.  

Dovolis, above left, spoke at the forum alongside, left to right, Robb Lubenow, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Yellow Tree Development; Jennifer Jordan, Senior Project Manager for the City of Brooklyn Park; and Jason Wittenberg, the Manager of Land Use, Design and Preservation for the City of Minneapolis.

In Minneapolis, DJR is focusing on small lots where multi-story residences can be built with limited parking. On Fremont Avenue South, DJR built a 10-story apartment building with just two parking spaces.

Panelists said one of the biggest benefits to reducing parking in new developments is the ability to provide more affordable housing and commercial space. Each enclosed parking space can cost up to $30,000 to create.

The lack of parking isn’t a deterrent to young adults and others who value living in vibrant, walkable neighborhoods where personal vehicles aren’t a necessity. In lieu of parking, developers are expanding bike facilities and providing vehicles that can be shared by building residents.

“The only thing that’s getting larger is our bike storage and lounges,” said Lubenow, of Yellow Tree.

Yellow Tree focuses on urban development that caters largely to young renters who prefer to live alone. The firm is building a 65-unit apartment building that will include 32 parking spaces in Northeast Minneapolis, and another near Lake Street that will include 91 apartments and 61 parking spaces.

In the City of Minneapolis, changes to city zoning rules have allowed developments near high-frequency transit to move ahead with fewer parking spaced than had historically been required.

Now the city is grappling with new questions, like how to regulate on-street parking. That and other challenges could be addressed through the city’s Transportation Action Plan.

The shift toward less parking is mostly evident in urban areas where light rail or high frequency bus service is available. But suburban communities are also setting the stage for a shift to parking-light development.

In Brooklyn Park, recently updated zoning guidelines reduced parking requirements in areas where light rail stations are planned.

Learn more

Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office is a resource for developers and urban planners who want to pursue TOD in the Twin Cities. Learn more at metrotransit.org/tod.

Community METRO Green Line On the METRO

Model Cities creates a new model near Victoria Street Station 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, June 07, 2018 12:22:00 PM

Desean Isaac was among the first to move in when Model Cities opened the doors to its new mixed-use building in late 2017.

One of the main appeals: The Green Line’s Victoria Street Station is just steps from the building’s door, allowing Isaac to get to church, medical appointments and the grocery store without needing to own a vehicle.

“Wherever I need to go, most likely I end up catching the train,” said Isaac, whose apartment window overlooks University Avenue.

Providing the kind of convenient access that Isaac and other building residents enjoy is among several reasons the St. Paul-based non-profit sought to reinvest in the property it’s long inhabited.

Organization leaders also saw an opportunity to create a place where it could not only carry out its mission but put it into practice. Model Cities has served St. Paul for the past 50 years and has focused in recent years on helping residents access safe and affordable housing, among other services.

“With the addition of light rail, we knew more people would be coming through and that we needed to give them a reason to get off,” said Kizzy Downie, who has worked at Model Cities for the past 12 years and will become its CEO later this summer. “This is that reason.”

Today, what’s known as the BROWNstone building includes 35 apartments, commercial space and offices for Model Cities’ 21 employees. 

Model Cities was able to tear down and rebuild on the property with support from several organizations, including the Metropolitan Council. The support has also helped the organization lower rental costs for residents and business owners.

With vintage barber chairs, couches and flat screen TVs, Privilege Barber Lounge was the first business to move into the new building.

Pausing between haircuts, owner Brandon Cole said he jumped on the opportunity to set up shop in the neighborhood he grew up in, and to enjoy the exposure that would come from being on University Avenue.

“So far, it’s been working out really well,” he said. “People are seeing the business and I’m getting new and diverse clientele.”

A new deli will soon move into the building, bringing life to a small courtyard that was also incorporated into the development. Model Cities hopes to attract a restaurateur and a few other businesses in the future.

While the building addresses the organization and the community’s future needs, it also pays homage to its past.

A space on the first floor, The Reading Room at BROWNstone, was created to showcase and celebrate the history of Pullman porters and other African American railroad workers who lived in the neighborhood. Porters fought for labor and civil rights, and the room’s effects draw a connection between that struggle and the present day.

“Their descendants are here but there really wasn’t really an obvious connection to that history,” Downie said.

In the future, Model Cities hopes to use the space for programs and to invite quiet reflection.

The organization also hopes the stake it’s planted the community will lead others to join in the revitalization effort. Nearby, plans to restore the historic Victoria Theater and turn it into a community arts center are moving forward.

“As an organization that’s been in this neighborhood for over 50 years, we really felt it was our duty to use this opportunity and make an investment that was beneficial long term,” Downie said. “I think we’ve done that.”

Visit BROWNstone's Reading Room on June 14

Model Cities is hosting artists Foster Willey and Guy Willey, who contributed artwork for the Green Line's Victoria Street Station, on Thursday, June 14, in The Reading Room. The event will feature the sculpted portraits of Rondo residents that were created for the Victoria Street Station. The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with an artist presentation at 6 p.m. The Reading Room is in the first floor of Model Cities' BROWNstone building, 839 University Ave.

Community METRO Green Line On the METRO

At Hamline Station, a welcome combination of affordable housing and transit 

| Monday, May 16, 2016 10:19:00 AM

ReJeana Hill moved into a new apartment at Hamline Station earlier this year so she could be close to the METRO Green Line. ReJeana Hill was waiting for a METRO Green Line train at Hamline Avenue Station when she spotted a newly-planted sign on the vacant lot across University Avenue.

Apartments coming soon, it said.

Eager to find an affordable place with more room and easy transit access, she took out her cell phone and dialed the number immediately. Even before her application had been approved, she started packing and telling friends she was moving.

Less than a year later, she and her husband Matt were among the first to take up residence in Hamline Station, a two-building development that opened in late 2015 with more than 100 efficiency, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Now settled into a third-floor apartment overlooking the station, she warmly receives guests and talks proudly about her new apartment, which she describes as “heaven sent.” She also talks glowingly about the Green Line – a lifeline for her and her husband, neither of whom drive.

“It’s like my own personal limo, right outside the door,” Hill said of the Green Line, which she regularly uses to run errands, get to appointments and travel to church.

Hill wasn’t the only one drawn to the combination of affordable, quality housing and transit access. More than 600 applications were received before Hamline Station opened and now, just months after opening, all of the apartments are occupied.

“There’s a strong demand for affordable housing in general, and even more so when it’s in a great location,” said Rick Dahlmeyer, a project manager with Project for Pride in Living.

Project for Pride in Living, or PPL, provides affordable housing and employment readiness. The Minneapolis-based non-profit led the effort to build the apartments on what had been a vacated auto dealership in the northeast corner of University and Hamline avenues.

Residents at Hamline Station earn 50 to 60 percent of the median income; 14 units have been reserved for individuals or families that recently experienced homelessness and are receiving support from two local service providers, Guild Incorporated and Clare Housing.

Support for the $28 million project came from the federal, state and local levels. The Metropolitan Council provided nearly $3.5 million in grant funds to help with site clean-up and land acquisition. U.S. Bank helped raise capital by investing in low-income housing tax credits.                       

Kent Carlson, who owned the property, made the land available for redevelopment and retains ownership of ground-floor retail space that will become home to several businesses.

While the arrangements were complex, Dahlmeyer said the end product is something residents, PPL and all of its partners can be proud of. And it’s not just the fact that it’s the largest project the Minneapolis-based non-profit has taken from start to finish.

With transit and a mix of stores, restaurants and other services nearby it is entirely possible for residents like Hill to forego owning a vehicle. Many of the development’s 50 underground parking spaces have been left unclaimed.

“This is really our flagship TOD (transit-oriented development) project,” Dahlmeyer said.

With its success on University Avenue, PPL hopes to build more affordable housing in Hopkins, near the site of a station on the proposed Green Line Extension. The Council and its partners are also working to advance more affordable housing along the Green Line corridor and other transitways.

Hill considers herself extremely fortunate and hopes those efforts provide others the same opportunity she’s had at Hamline Station. “This has been such a blessing for me and my husband, I just can’t believe it,” she said.

    > Learn more about Metro Transit's Transit Oriented Development office

    > Learn more about Council grants

    > Development along Green Line soars to more than $4 billion 

Express Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Metropass Minneapolis Northstar On the METRO

New transit-friendly HQ a perfect ‘Match’ 

| Monday, December 14, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Be the Match employee Mike Smith spends his time on the bus catching up on emails and listening to the radio.When Be the Match relocated to its new North Loop headquarters, Michael Smith thought he'd continue driving to work.

But weeks after the relocation, he gave up on the idea of driving and using one of the few underground parking spaces available to a small portion of the donor network’s 900-plus employees. 

The decision to go “all in” on transit came after Smith compared his options and became convinced commuting between Minneapolis and Lakeville on Route 467 would be considerably more relaxing than battling traffic on Interstate 35W, his routine for the last several years.

On the bus, Smith spends his time catching up on emails and listening to the radio, occasionally using free WiFi now available on some buses.

“It’s changed my life to be honest with you,” said Smith, Be the Match’s Director of Donor Shared Services. “My wife has even noticed. It’s not that shock and awe feeling where you need a half hour to decompress because the drive is so crazy.  It’s amazing what this is going to do to my family as well as my work.”

Smith isn’t the only Be the Match employee to embrace transit since the non-profit moved from Northeast Minneapolis to a site immediately adjacent Target Field Station. After working in a location with relatively limited transit options, staff now find the METRO Blue and Green lines, Northstar and dozens of express and local bus routes at their doorstep.

Chief Financial Officer Amy Ronneberg said Be the Match looked at 70 different locations but was sold on the North Loop in large part because of its transit access. Like many companies moving to the downtown core, Be the Match sees transit as a key to retaining and recruiting top talent, particularly when it comes to Millenials who are increasingly averse to driving.

“As we looked out into the future, we knew it was important to be in a place with vibrancy,” Ronneberg said. “Being here with all of the amenities and transportation options, I think we’ve opened ourselves up to a whole new potential workforce.”

With thousands of people passing by each day – especially during the Twins season – Be the Match also saw a chance to increase its visibility and raise awareness of its mission. Operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, Be the Match manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. 

To ease the transition for current staff, Metro Transit worked closely with Be the Match to help employees understand the options available to them. Be the Match also joined the Metropass program, which gives employees the opportunity to buy a low-cost transit pass that provides unlimited access to buses and trains.

Staff have also been given the freedom to work remotely and are encouraged to carpool, bike or walk to work.

Among those who have converted from a drive-alone commute to transit is Human Resources Coordinator Diane Dombeck, of Spring Lake Park. Before the move, she had taken Northstar just once to a Minnesota Twins game. Now, she takes the train daily to and from Fridley Station.

“I wasn’t sure how it would work, because it was a new thing to me,” she said. “But it’s really painless and a lot more fun than I thought it would be because you chat with other train riders and get to know people. I actually love taking it now.”

Dombeck was reminded of how different life will be when winter weather hit a few weeks ago and she had to drive to Be the Match’s former location. With traffic, the usual 25-minute commute turned into almost 90 minutes on the road.

“I really missed the train that day,” she said.

Metropass popularity growing

Be the Match is among several employers to join the Metropass program this year. The Mall of America, Delta and Regions Hospital also joined the program in 2015. Around 280 companies now participate in the Metropass program. Staff at participating companies can purchase the unlimited-ride passes for a flat monthly fee. The passes can be bought pre-tax and the cost is typically offset by an employer contribution. Any company with at least ten participants can join the Metropass program. To learn more, visit metrotransit.org/metropass.

Supporting TOD through grants, assistance

Be the Match’s new headquarters, at 524 5th Street N., were built by Minneapolis-based United Properties (United Properties has since sold the building; Be the Match has a 15-year lease, with the option of renewing). The Metropolitan Council provided a $487,000 brownfield clean-up grant to assist with pre-development at the site, previously home to a printing facility. To learn more about how the Council and Metro Transit are supporting Transit-Oriented Development through grants and technical assistance visit metrotransit.org/tod.

North Loop rising

Be the Match is among several recent developments in the area immediately surrounding Target Field Station. District 600, a new 78-unit apartment building adjacent to the Fulton Brewery, is set to open in February 2016. Construction is also underway on a new 12,000-square-foot brewery, Inbound Brewco., at 70 N. 5th Street. Metro Transit is planning to expand and improve its Heywood Campus north of Target Field. 

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