The Elmwood gains St. Louis Park City council support

The Elmwood, a six-story project that would replace the building containing the St. Louis Park American Legion, has received a higher margin of council support during final approvals.
Councilmember Gregg Lindberg changed his final votes on the project’s planned unit development to support The Elmwood.

A rendering shows the design for The Elmwood. (Submitted art)
A rendering shows the design for The Elmwood. (Submitted art)

Lindberg explained during a March 20 council meeting that his mother helped shape his view on the plan, which would be marketed to residents 55 years or older. Twenty percent of the 85 units in the building would be considered affordable for residents making 60 percent of the area median income.

Lindberg said his mother spoke up while the two had been on a drive along Highway 100.

“She said, ‘I was reading the Sun Sailor. What are you doing voting against that?’” Lindberg said to laughter from other council members as Mayor Jake Spano responded, “I can just hear, ‘What did I do wrong? What did I do?’”

Lindberg said his mother has been a widow for about seven years and that maintaining a house has become more and more expensive for her.

“She said to me, ‘I could afford those rents, Gregg.’” Lindberg said. “And I said, ‘I know, Mom, but here’s what I was thinking.’ And nevertheless, I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good – and I’m a mama’s boy by definition – so I’m changing my position on this.”

Spano joked, “If you want to have turkey at Thanksgiving, you should.”

Councilmember Tim Brausen also chimed in, “I’d certainly be supportive of this project, too, and Gregg’s attempt to get in his mother’s good graces again.”

All kidding aside, Lindberg said he realizes that senior housing is an issue the council needs to consider.

“Having affordable housing options for our aging population is incredibly important in this community,” Lindberg said. “I don’t want to get in the way of a project that is actually accomplishing that goal.”

He said the 20 percent of units that will be reserved as affordable units is significant.

“I have been a tireless advocate of us investing in senior affordable housing, and I think we need to do more and I look forward to doing more over the next several months,” Lindberg said.
With Lindberg’s vote, the council approved the preliminary and final planned unit development for The Elmwood and an alley vacation that allows the project to occur on a vote of 6-1. Councilmember Thom Miller continued to oppose the project.

During a March 6 meeting, Miller had expressed concern about the level of commercial space in the building, which would amount to less than 5,000 square feet of space.

“The greatest concern I have for this building is we really don’t have commercial on the first floor,” Miller said. “We have amenities on the first floor and a leasing office on the first floor. I understand it could qualify as commercial, but it’s not really providing a value to the community.”

Lindberg had also expressed concern about a lack of commercial space during the March 6 meeting.

“This area is going to redevelop,” Lindberg said at the time. “It just is. I feel it has to be the right redevelopment.”

Hearing on city financial support

The council followed up the March approvals by voting 6-1 April 3 to call for a public hearing for the establishment of an Elmwood Apartment tax-increment financing district. The public hearing is set during the council meeting 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 15, at St. Louis Park City Hall, 5005 Minnetonka Blvd.

The cost to construct the project is about $19 million, according to a city staff report. The developer, 36th Street LLC, seeks $950,000 in tax-increment financing over a six-year term.

With tax-increment financing, new taxes generated by a development are returned to the developer for a period of time to pay for qualifying costs like site acquisition and infrastructure upgrades. After the period, taxing jurisdictions receive the full value of property taxes in the district.

The developer plans to demolish the building at 5605 W. 36th St. containing the 36th Street Business Center and the St. Louis Park American Legion.

The service club has entered into a contract to move to a section of the Paul Revere Masonic Center, 6509 Walker St. The American Legion could open at its new location in July.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]