St. Anthony council questioned about Lowry Grove suit

Some St. Anthony residents and some former residents forced out of the city when the Lowry Grove mobile home park closed last year were in vocal attendance at the Aug. 28 St. Anthony City Council meeting. 

It was the first meeting since the owner and developer of the former Lowry Grove site, Brad Hoyt, head of The Village, LLC, scrapped the long-planned redevelopment and sued the City of St. Anthony for fraud, seeking millions of dollars in damage. 

One of the first to speak was former Lowry Grove resident Antonia Alvarez, who figured as an activist and vocal leader of park residents before and after the sale and the park’s closure. She said that current and former St. Anthony residents deserve answers on what role the city played in all that’s happened regarding the property.

The 70 year-old mobile home park was sold for $6 million in 2016 to Continental Property Group, which set out to redevelop it under the name The Village. It was closed for redevelopment in July 2017, uprooting some 100 households, but redevelopment plans stalled.

Though St. Anthony officals had been mum about Hoyt’s lawsuit up until that point — the city issued a brief statement saying the suit was without merit — when questioned by Alvarez and others, city leaders opened up.

Council member Hal Gray was the first to break the city’s silence.

“You’ve been misled by a lot of people,” he said to Alvarez, pointing out the Lowry Grove sale was a private transaction and that the city has no involvement in private transactions. He argued that activists like Alvarez were being used by the developer.

In the suit filed in federal court Aug. 20, Hoyt claims the city tricked him into buying Lowry Grove in order to rid the city of its black and Latinx people. 

 

‘Oh, please’

Alvarez, who was still at the dais, argued people are homeless because of the council, and that the council needs to be held responsible.

“Is there no personal responsibility?” asked council member Thomas Randle. Before he could say anything else, Mayor Jerry Faust interjected and said “No, Thomas.”

Alvarez pointed to the exchange and called it an example of the council shutting up a person of color — Randle is African-American.

“Oh, please. Please, please. You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” said Faust, later adding forcefully that the council took no effort to do what was “alleged in the paper,” referring to the accusations in Hoyt’s suit. 

“Never. Never. And that will come out,” said Faust, reminding those at the meeting that the council approved a concept for affordable housing financing near the former Lowry Grove in May. 

The park was some of the most affordable housing in the city, and the inclusion of lower-priced places to live was an ongoing topic in discussions about its future redevelopment.

Council member Randy Stille said that since 2006 a good portion of the housing units built in the city have had some elements of affordability, and Gray said the council has looked at plans regarding another affordably priced development.

“We’ve done more than our fair share in the city, for the region,” said Faust. 

Resident Sandi Sherman stepped up and said that what the council considers to be affordable ends up being rents that range from $1,100 and $1,300. 

“That’s way beyond the means of many residents, way beyond my means,” she said, noting she would like to see the council demonstrate where there is “deeply affordable” housing. 

“You don’t want it,” she claimed.

A few residents said they don’t trust Hoyt, either. One said she doesn’t know if the council was actively trying to get rid of people of color like Hoyt alleges, but said there was plenty of blame to go around.

“You didn’t do much to help them, either,” she said. 

Faust said the lawsuit will be decided in court.

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here