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Senior housing planned for Twin Cities

A senior housing project shown in this rendering is planned for the location of the former Thompson Heights alternative high school in South St. Paul, Minn. (Photo courtesy of InSite Architects)

A senior housing project shown in this rendering is planned for the location of the former Thompson Heights alternative high school in South St. Paul, Minn. (Photo courtesy of InSite Architects)

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — The Dakota County Community Development Agency is taking the lead on a pair of soon-to-begin projects that will bring more than 120 new senior-housing units to the south metro area.

CDA officials, who will own and manage the facilities, want to break ground by summer’s end on a 60-unit, independent-living senior-housing building at a former school site in South St. Paul.

“If all goes well we would take construction contract awards to our board in August,” said Kari Gill, deputy executive director of the Dakota County CDA, which develops affordable housing throughout the county.  “The goal is to be under construction by Labor Day.”

Also in the works is a 66-unit senior independent-living building in Farmington. That project will likely go out for bid this winter, Gill said.

The CDA, which operates 23 senior facilities, has received city approvals for both projects.

Gill said there’s a need for elderly housing in the area, especially South St. Paul and West St. Paul.

“We have long waiting lists for both our South St. Paul buildings,” she said.

The CDA is working with Minneapolis-based InSite Architects on both projects.

Also on the horizon: A possible CDA senior-housing development in Burnsville, although that plan is not as far along as the South St. Paul and Farmington projects.

Skip Nienhaus, economic development coordinator for the city of Burnsville, said the city is aware that the CDA is looking to buy a couple of parcels in the city.

“They have not had an application before us yet because they have not actually purchased the property,” he said.

Meanwhile, the South St. Paul housing will rise up on the location of the former Thompson Heights alternative high school at 15th and Thompson avenues. The building, which previously served as an elementary school, was demolished last year.

Peter Hellegers, South St. Paul’s city planner, said the city has identified a need for more senior housing. He said this will be the third Dakota County CDA project in South St. Paul.

One thing the new senior housing could do is free up single-family homes in the city for younger families, he said.

The school site includes six lots for new single-family homes, but those lots won’t be available until after the three-story senior building is constructed.

Hellegers said the single-family housing is a second-phase project for a reason: People who buy the lots will know that they will be living next to a building, not an open field.

He said he likes the fact that the senior building will be constructed in the middle of the site, and the single-family housing and landscaping will provide a transition to existing commercial and residential uses in the area.

“It blends into the existing neighborhood,” Hellegers said. “The CDA and the architect did a good job of fitting it into that site.”

Financing sources for the projects include federal Recovery Zone and Build America bonds, which are available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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