With financing in hand, CommonBond Communities can proceed to build 60 units of affordable housing for low-income seniors at Highland Bridge. The Saint Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority board approved a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement on September 28 with CB Ford Site I Limited Partnership.

The agreement is for up to $5.3 million in TIF. It will be part of a $22.3 million funding package for the Lumin at Highland Bridge, which will be built at the northeast corner of Cretin and Bohland avenues. The site is located just south of the new mixed-use building that houses Lunds & Byerlys and Weidner Apartment Homes.

“This is an exciting day,” said Ward 3 City Council member Chris Tolbert. He and city housing director Tara Beard cited the challenges in pulling together financing for deeply affordable housing.

CommonBond had hoped to start work on the project last year. Construction on the Lumin is now scheduled to begin the week of October 17, according to Adam Faitek, vice president for development with CommonBond.

The five-story, 60-unit Lumin will have 48 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units. Seven apartments will be earmarked for people who have been homeless. Those residents will also receive support services. 

The building will have 29 parking stalls. It will also have a lobby, activity room, community room with kitchen, individual storage units and bike storage.

The September 28 action involves part of a TIF district that was initially approved in June 2021. At the time, the HRA created a district that paired the CommonBond affordable housing project with a market-rate senior housing project being developed by Presbyterian Homes.

 

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The Presbyterian Homes project, which is now under construction, is a 118-unit independent senior living building with approximately 4,000 square feet of retail space. Pairing market-rate housing with affordable housing increases the availability of TIF assistance.

The five-story, 60-unit Lumin will have 48 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units. Seven apartments will be earmarked for people who have been homeless. Those residents will also receive support services. 

Highland Bridge is to eventually have about 3,800 housing units with at least 20 percent (or 760) affordable to lower-income residents, according to the 2019 agreement with master developer Ryan Companies. Of the 760 units, approximately 5 percent (190) are to be affordable to households earning 60 percent of the Twin Cities Area Median Income (AMI), 5 percent (190) to households earning 50 percent AMI, and 10 percent (380) to households earning 30 percent AMI.

“These (affordable) units require large amounts of subsidy such as TIF,” Beard said.

Lumin’s residents will be seniors earning no more than 30 percent AMI, which is $24,650 for one person and $28,200 for two. Residents will have project-based Section 8 vouchers from the Saint Paul Public Housing Agency, Beard said, which will drop monthly rents to around $550-$650.

The greatest share of the $22.3 million in funding for the project is a $10.6 million loan from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Low-income housing tax credits will provide $6.2 million, with a Ramsey County housing loan providing another $4.5 million. Sales tax and energy rebates, and a deferred developer’s fee make up the rest of the financing.

It has been a long haul for CommonBond. In the summer of 2020 the Saint Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) denied a lot coverage open space variance for the project. That decision was appealed to the City Council, which in August 2020 upheld the appeal and overturned the BZA decision.

The original Ford site master plan had detailed open space requirements for each development parcel, which meant the first projects had to seek variances. The Planning Commission and City Council later changed the master plan regulations to reduce those requirements.

— Jane McClure

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