Construction starts on in-demand senior housing in North St. Paul

An excavator digs earth and moves it as construction begins on the Polar Ridge Senior Living complex in North St. Paul. The facility will house 114 units. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Kaitlyn Roby
Review staff

A St. Cloud developer recently demolished a large portion of a Helen Street parking lot near downtown North St. Paul, one of the first steps to construct a 114-unit senior living facility that has already attracted dozens of prospective residents.

Before they handed off the waiting list to Trident Development, city staffers took down more than 50 names of people interested in the complex, according to Paul Ammerman, community development director.

“We’re getting calls left and right [from] people living in the community and people who want to come back and live here,” Ammerman said.

“We’re pleased, of course, with the level of interest that we’re seeing,” said Roger Fink, senior vice president of Trident Development.

The two-acre site, which is made up of property that the city and a local businessman sold to the developer, is located on the west side of Helen Street, south of Highway 36 and immediately north of Seppala Boulevard. A groundbreaking is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 14.

Some units could be open around this time next year.

Fink said it’s uncertain when units will be available, but that the construction period will be about 17 or 18 months.

The complex, next door to the Franklyn Park senior apartments, will add in-demand housing for those considering independent or assisted living, according to Mayor Mike Kuehn.

“With not having a lot of housing variety in our city, people were almost forced to move to another community,” Kuehn said. “It really offers a tremendous quality-of-life improvement for our residents who need that type of housing.”

Put-out downtown parkers

To make way for the complex, the developer tore up the majority of long-term parking spaces used by downtown employees, River of God Church attendees and the History Cruze Car Show.

The row near the city’s pump house at the south end of the property will remain open.

To add municipal parking in the area, the city purchased the old Rite Price Gas Station property for about $40,000. Of that amount, $25,000 came from Reflex Medical Center due to a cost-sharing agreement for Reflex’ recent expansion, according to Kuehn.

He said the city will soon make some small improvements to the lot and that cars can now be parked there.

According to Ammerman, more parking is available at North St. Paul Community School and at the city lot north of Seppala Boulevard and just west of Margaret Street North. It’s near Central Park and behind Neumann’s Bar and Grill.

For Polar Ridge residents, the project will add 53 underground parking spots, according to Fink, in addition to on-site surface parking and spots along Helen Street.

Local push

Kuehn added that North St. Paul businessman Tracy Luther led the charge.

“He had the vision and drive over the last four years to continue to move this project and help seek out potential developers,” Kuehn said. “We were happy that he showed leadership and helped push the city along to put a development deal together.”
Luther said that he and his wife started buying up properties along Helen Street eight years ago with a project similar to Polar Ridge Senior Living Complex in mind.

He looked into developing some kind of affordable housing himself, but eventually reached out to Trident to carry the concept forwrad.

Luther says market studies show the city will need significantly more senior housing in the next few years.

“I wish it would have taken a little less time,” Luther said. “In the end, it got done and it’s probably great timing because this need is going to hit a real peak here in a year or two.”

Funneling funds

The city created a tax increment financing district in January to reimburse the developer for up to $3 million in expenses.

The TIF money is the difference between the increased tax revenue that comes in with the new development and the tax revenue prior to development. That amount goes to the city, allowing the city to refund the developer for particular development costs.  Once reimbursements hit the maximum, the city will realize the tax base that will increase with the two buildings.

“And then everyone will enjoy the taxes on the whole property,” Ammerman said.

To receive the funds, the developer must make at least 20 percent of its units affordable to be set aside for those earning 80 percent of the median family income.

Trident Development bought the city property for $50,000. At closing, the company paid $25,000 of $200,000 it owes the city for costs the city incurred.

A $14 million loan will take care of other construction costs, according to city documents. Fink said that the total cost is approximately $18 million.

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