Everwood Company’s Elizabeth Flannery and David Dye met with the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) on October 27, 2010 to discuss their proposal to the Minneapolis Public Schools to purchase and redevelop the Lehmann Center site at 1006 West Lake Street. The current site contains an approximately 140,000 square foot building along with a large surface parking lot and most recently used by the school district for a few school programs and administrative offices. As a part of district restructuring, the district intends to sell the property.
The district is soliciting proposals from interested properties before considering whether to sell the property or give development rights to any particular party. Dye said that Everwood submitted a proposal and said the school district had hoped to make a decision on how to move forward by the end of October, though Dye doubted that the district would move that quickly.
Everwood’s proposal calls for renovating the existing building into 99 units of apartments and building a new four story 112-unit apartment building with two-levels of below-street-grade parking to serve both buildings. Both buildings would contain a mix of affordable and market-rate units, with the existing building containing artist live/work and workforce housing. Parking at a rate of 1:1 or 1:1.25 (presumably to the number of units) would be provided, as well as some visitor parking. A small surface parking lot would also exist on the site.
Flannery stated there were a lot of new units in the Uptown/Lyn-Lake communities that are high-end (just over $2.00 per square foot rent per month, so $2,000 for a 1,000 square foot 2BR unit). This project will use some market rate units to help subsidize the cost of providing some affordable units.
Asked about how this workforce/artist housing project could get financing when another recent project failed to go forward after concerns about getting financing. Dye responded by stating that they would utilize historic tax credits and bonds rather than other tax credits that other projects sought. In addition, Dye believed that the other site was challenged by having a commercial property valued associated with it, presumably a higher value per foot than the Lehmann Center site.
If selected, Everwood hopes to close on the property in late 2011 and start construction on both buildings immediately.
The Lehmann Center Building was first built as a self-threading needle company in 1907 and was purchased by the Buzza Company in 1923, which was famous for its greeting cards. The company added several additions during the 1920s before closing in 1942. The building then was home to various government agencies. The rear of the site, which currently is home to a depressed parking lot, was home to a building materials company before and for a period after the railroad trench just north of 29th Street was built in the mid-1910s. As a result, the site has a historically significant connection with the trench through a tunnel under the 29th Street viaduct, which at one time connected the industry to the railroad. Flannery and Dye, when asked, stated that they would like to reconnect the site to the Midtown Greenway, which now occupies the trench if possible.
It is unclear if any other proposals have been submitted for consideration to the Minneapolis Public Schools, but Everwood believes that they are not alone in pursuing the site.