Accelerator: Capturing a Window of Opportunity for the Central Corridor

November 26, 2014
By Gretchen Nicholls, Twin Cities LISC
The 2014 Progress Report for the Big Picture Project – tracking housing investments along the Central Corridor – found that of the 4,537 new housing units built since 2011, only 7% were affordable to families with incomes of $39,840 per year or less.  In addition, the majority of new construction was occurring in the downtown and University area, with very few investments occurring in the mid-sections.  To offset this imbalance, greater effort was needed to stimulate new construction investments in areas that were underserved by private capital.
The Accelerator, an initiative designed to support the redevelopment of sites on the east end of the Central Corridor, was the brain child of Twin Cities LISC.  LISC works closely with the City of St. Paul to quickly advance a handful of equitable, transit-oriented (E-TOD), mixed use projects.  Developers and public and private investors worked to maximize the ways these projects would benefit the local community, setting the stage for future development and opportunity.  District-wide strategies were employed to explore new ideas (community investment fund, design for safety, marketing the assets of the community) and to strengthen the economic vitality.  Accelerator resources worked to leverage additional federal resources and fine tune the projects to move them more quickly to construction.   
With support from the Accelerator, two projects have begun construction in 2014, and another (Model Cities Brownstone at Victoria Station) is nearing the finish line:

Hamline Station TOD – Hamline Station
Developer: Project for Pride in Living
Project Concept: redevelop vacant lot into 108 units of affordable workforce/ family housing, 13,000 sq. ft. commercial space and an outdoor plaza.
Estimated Cost: $25.6 million
Primary Financing: 9% LIHTCs (east bldg), 4% LIHTCs/ bonds (west bldg), TIF, Met Council LCDA/TOD, St. Paul HOME, MHFA subsidy gap.
Timing: began construction fall 2014.
LISC/ Accelerator Support: $225K cap bldg grants (2012-14); $5K feasibility grant; $80K recoverable grant; $570K predev loan; commercial market study; SafeGrowth/ CPTED training; Joint funder/ TA meeting.
Western U Plaza – Western Station
Developer: Aurora St. Anthony NDC & Sand Companies
Project Concept: Combine reuse of historic Old Home Dairy building and new construction to create 60 units of affordable workforce/ family housing and 6,000 sq. ft. commercial space.
Estimated Cost: $16.2 million
Primary Financing: 9% LIHTCs, Historic Tax Credits, Met Council TOD, St. Paul HOME.
Timing: began construction fall 2014.
LISC/ Accelerator Support: $680K CoO Predevelopment Loan & $600K Bridge Loan. $120K cap bldg grants (2012-14); $35.5K feasibility grants; $50K recoverable grant, $680K predev loan; commercial market study; SafeGrowth/ CPTED training; Joint funder/ TA meeting.

With new opportunities on the horizon and in partnership with the emerging cultural business districts, St. Paul’s University Avenue is experiencing a renaissance – creating opportunities for all communities.