By Jane McClure

A 97-unit, six-story apartment building proposed for the southeast corner of Marshall Avenue and Fry Street won the unanimous support of the St. Paul Planning Commission in May for a zoning change, a conditional use permit and a front-yard setback variance.

The commission’s decisions on the use permit and variance are final. The City Council will hold a public hearing on June 17 before voting on the request to change the zoning from Traditional Neighborhoods 2 to TN3.

The city’s zoning administrator also must approve a reduction in the off-street parking requirement for residential uses in a TN3 district. The apartment building, which will have 45 below-ground and 16 surface parking spots, would ordinarily require 91 spaces.

The Planning Commission added a condition that a minimum of five units of the building be affordable for residents earning up to 30 percent of the Twin Cities area median household income (AMI), which is $100,000 for a family of four. The remainder of the units must be affordable for household’s earning 50-70 percent of the AMI.

The Union Park District Council supported the project on the condition that it provide “deeply affordable” units in the 30 percent of AMI range.

The Marshall Avenue Flats project is being led by developer Richard Pakonen of PAK Properties. The apartment building would be built on a parking lot and green space north of the former Richards Gordon School at 1619 Dayton Ave. The former school building will be remodeled as part of the project and will continue to house offices after the apartments are built.

Even with a zoning change, a conditional use permit was needed to allow a building of up to 75 feet in height. The 5-foot front-yard setback was approved instead of the 10 feet normally required for the building and its balconies along Marshall.

The Union Park District Council supported the project on the condition that it provide “deeply affordable” units in the 30 percent of AMI range.

Most of the apartments would be one- and two-bedroom units with monthly rents ranging from $937-$1,575. A handful of three-bedroom units would rent for about $1,800.

Public financing is being sought for the project. The site is located in a qualified census tract where incomes are lower than in other parts of the neighborhood. The ongoing 2020 U.S. Census could change that status, so the development team is working quickly on its requests. A mix of tax credits for low-income housing, bonding tied to those credits and tax increment financing is being proposed. Those requests will be considered by the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority board.

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