Apt. boom to push on, 2014 and beyond

Future student housing projects will extend farther along the light-rail line.
October 24, 2012

In the fall of 2014, old will meet new in Dinkytown. One developer, Rusty Turpen, is planning to create new student housing on the site of three historic buildings on the corner of Fifth Street and 15th Avenue Southeast.

Turpen plans on renovating the buildings to maintain the original character of the block, while also constructing a new addition in the metal-and-glass style of newer student housing, according to project architect Scott Nelson.

The project, approved by the city last week, is just one of many new housing developments set to arrive in the University of Minnesota area in 2014 and beyond. As the market continues to grow, many of these housing projects will be smaller and more accommodating to non-students, with more emphasis on proximity to campus and transit.

Flexibility

Developers, neighborhood officials and city planners said designing projects to suit the needs of non-student tenants is crucial.

“We try to encourage folks to think flexible,” said Minneapolis city planner Haila Maze. “We’re building a sustainable city here, and building single-purpose stuff isn’t always the most sustainable model.”

Daniel Oberpriller, developer of the upcoming WaHu student housing complex, cited the Grandma’s Associates project, a new five-story apartment building under construction on the West Bank, as a development with a good mix of units.

“[A] TA, or professor or research assistant can live in there,” he said. “They don’t want to live in a four-bedroom or a three-bedroom house.”

It’s important to consider how units are positioned within the building, Oberpriller said, making them easy to rearrange in the future by tearing down shared walls.

Dick Gilyard, planning committee chair for the Prospect Park East River Road Neighborhood Association, said this flexibility is important to the neighborhood. The association works with developers to make projects in the area friendly to non-student tenants.

“There’s a ton of student housing coming online in all parts of the district,” he said. “If the market changes in the future, we want these buildings to be able to be transformed to another kind of housing.”

Infill

There are at least four housing projects with more than 200 units in development, but developers have said they are looking toward smaller, more strategically placed projects in the future.

Lupe Development recently began construction on a 12-unit cluster of townhouse-style apartments on Fourth Street, near Sigma Phi Epsilon’s fraternity chapter house.

Steve Minn, vice president of Lupe, said this type of infill development is important and something that the company is interested in building.

David Graham, one of the architects behind Dinnaken, Sydney Hall and the upcoming 97-unit Station on Washington project, said smaller development creates less risk of overbuilding than larger developments like WaHu or the 326-unit UTEC project.

“The Station is smaller; it’s more incremental,” Graham said. “The site is unbelievable. It’s right on transit, so that will work 100 percent.”

Location

Developers have said location becomes even more important as the market approaches saturation. But sites that were previously considered undesirable for development will gain value with the addition of the Central Corridor light-rail line.

Two housing projects are being planned for former industrial sites in Prospect Park near the future light-rail station, Gilyard said.

Texas developer Fountain Residential is proposing a six-story, 204-unit student housing complex to the city and the Prospect Park neighborhood association. The Cornerstone Group has acquired the former site of a nearby sheet metal factory and is exploring options of a housing development there.

Looking ahead, Graham said the University’s history as a commuter campus has created an untapped potential for non-student housing.

“The University is not an isolated college campus. It’s part of the whole Twin Cities urban fabric, and it’s on transit,” he said. “There might be a broader market of people who want to live near the University just because.”

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