Highland Bridge
Twenty residential lots starting at $475,000 became available on February 8 on South Mississippi River Boulevard as part of Highland Bridge. The dotted lines show paths for pedestrians and bicyclists only.

Twenty lots for new homes along South Mississippi River Boulevard went up for sale on February 8 as part of the Highland Bridge development. Within the first day, half of them had already been snapped up.

The lots range in price from $475,000 to $1.15 million and in size from 6,660 to 19,838 square feet. They are located along the river bluff between Bohland and Montreal avenues, near what will be a new city park.

Broker Jim Seabold of Coldwell Banker Realty-Crocus Hill, the real estate firm brokering the lot sales for developer Ryan Companies, said he anticipated a high level of interest in the properties. More than 1,000 inquiries were received before the first lots even went on the market, according to him.

City Council member Chris Tolbert, who represents the area, was pleased to hear of the strong demand for the lots. “The response speaks well to the development and people wanting to live at Highland Bridge,” he said.

Fourteen more lots along Mississippi River Boulevard will be put up for sale at a later date.

“We anticipate that all of the lots will be spoken for soon. It’s a great location,” Seabold said, adding that the area is just minutes from both downtowns and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

The location along the river bluff, near shopping, Hidden Falls Regional Park and other amenities is a huge selling point, said Seabold, who described the area as a “soft urban environment.”

“We anticipate that all of the lots will be spoken for soon. It’s a great location,” Seabold said, adding that the area is just minutes from both downtowns and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

Seabold said the lot sales reflect a continuing real estate trend from last year of higher-end properties selling well. He anticipates that homes built on the lots will range in value from $1.3 million to $3 million. The HighlandBridgeCustomHomes.com website includes a list of design requirements and 10 “preferred” builders.

Buyers are expected to close on the properties before the end of the year, with construction of the homes to start after that. It is anticipated that new residents could move in as soon as 2022.

The zoning along the river bluff allows for one- to six-unit buildings, along with carriage houses or accessory dwellings above garages. Seabold said some of the lots going up for sale in the future are larger and could be occupied by condos or townhomes.

Tolbert and Seabold both cited the benefits of higher-end housing at Highland Bridge for increasing the city’s property tax base. “We need to consider what these properties could generate in property taxes and how that benefits the city as a whole,” Tolbert said.

The lower-density zoning along the river bluff was a flash point during Saint Paul Planning Commission and City Council deliberations on the master plan for the 122-acre site of Ford Motor Company’s former assembly plant. Rechristened Highland Bridge, the site will eventually have about 3,800 dwellings as well as 55 acres of city and privately owned parks and other open spaces.

Maureen Michalski, Ryan Companies’ senior vice president of real estate development, said the strong interest in the river bluff lots is one of many exciting aspects of the site’s development. “The (river bluff) lots provide a unique opportunity for new housing along Mississippi River Boulevard,” she said.

She added that the housing adds to the diverse mix of dwellings planned for Highland Bridge, including senior housing, low-income housing, market-rate apartments and row houses. “There’s a lot of demand for housing of all types,” she said.

More construction underway

People will see much more above-ground construction at Highland Bridge this year. “2020 was when we did a lot of underground work, with 7.5 miles of utilities and 2.5 miles of water mains installed,” Michalski said. “This year will be more vertical development.”

The first project is a five-story, mixed-use building that began last November at the southeast corner of Ford Parkway and Cretin Avenue. The project, a partnership between Ryan and Weidner Apartment Homes, will include 230 apartments, two levels of parking and a new Lunds & Byerlys supermarket. That building is expected to be completed in summer 2022.

Adjacent to most of the Mississippi River Boulevard lots will be 325 row houses built by Pulte Homes. They will be built on the west side of a manmade stream that will run north and south through the site. Model homes for that 15-block development are expected to open this summer, with the rest of the homes built over the next few years. Some of the units will be built by Habitat for Humanity as affordable housing.

Construction of the two-block Presbyterian Homes senior housing campus on Mount Curve Boulevard also gets underway this summer. That project includes a pair of 65-foot-tall buildings with 220 independent, 40 assisted-living and 40 memory care units. Construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

Project for Pride in Living is expected to start work on two buildings of affordable housing this fall on the southwest corner of Ford and Mount Curve. The two buildings will have 135 dwellings, including one for women enrolled in Emma Norton Services. The Saint Paul-based organization promotes healing and recovery for individuals and families who have been homeless.

CommonBond Communities expects to start work on a five-story, 60-unit apartment building for low-income seniors next winter on South Cretin Avenue.

— Jane McClure


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