Google gives aid to Riverside Plaza

Google is investing tax credits in the Riverside Plaza apartment complex.

by Jennifer Bissell

In a new effort to provide affordable housing, Google has invested about $28 million in tax credits to help renovate the Riverside Plaza apartments.
The money will help fund the housing developmentâÄôs $132 million revitalization project, which includes restructuring the propertyâÄôs debt and a $62 million renovation.
Construction on the project started Feb. 1.
âÄúOur investment reflects an ongoing commitment to help people afford quality homes,âÄù Google Vice President and Treasurer Brent Callinicos said in a statement.
The biggest improvements to the site will include upgrades to the propertyâÄôs aesthetics and mechanical work to replace failing plumbing and heating systems.
Hassan Abdullahi, a resident at Riverside Plaza for the past 11 years, said he was most looking forward to the improved air conditioning for the summer and decreased waiting time for the elevator. Every day Abdullahi waits 20 minutes for the elevator when he goes to work.
âÄúThey improve a lot of things in the area [but] even the roads are bad,âÄù Abdullahi said. âÄúI like that this area is going to be improved âÄî construction, security, everything. ItâÄôs going to be changed. I like that.âÄù
Google contributed to the project by buying tax credits for the project in place of paying income taxes to the government. The move is akin to ordinary taxpayers writing off charitable donations when paying taxes.
The contribution will account for roughly 20 percent of the private financing needed for the project, property manager George Sherman said.
âÄúWe do a lot of intense and unusual projects, and this clearly is one we have a lot of dedication to,âÄù Sherman said. âÄúItâÄôs not just the tenants living there now, but tenants in 10 or 20 years that will have a better place to live.âÄù
Google representatives declined to comment on the subject.
Minneapolis Housing Development project coordinator Matt Goldstein urged the importance of replacing the mechanical systems, as the âÄúpipes are crumbling from the inside and the outside.âÄù
âÄúThe critical need was to keep the building inhabitable and to minimize the possibility of catastrophe,âÄù Goldstein said. âÄúThere are over 4,400 people living there, and if you have to close one or two of the towers at one time, that would create a huge impact on the residents.âÄù
Goldstein said the property owners had done a good job of maintaining the property, but with income restrictions on rent prices, outside funding sources would be necessary to make the improvements.
Approximately 88 percent of the $132 million is coming from private sources.
The project will improve adjacent streets and bicycle paths, the on-site community center and education facilities. Construction will create 200 jobs, 90 of which will be reserved for residents of the complex.
Additionally, the project will allocate $4.5 million through 2041 âÄî or $150,000 annually âÄî to the Riverside Plaza Tenant Association for tenant advocacy and related services.
Fredda Scobey, who runs the tenant association, said the group was âÄúvery gratefulâÄù for the money but contended it wasnâÄôt a massive amount.
âÄúItâÄôs expensive to run a business,âÄù Scobey said. âÄúItâÄôs actually very little money for what we try to do.âÄù
Residents are excited for the revitalization, Scobey said, but many are frustrated about needing to move from their homes temporarily. One building in the plaza will have furnished hotel-like rooms for the tenants to live in temporarily while their units are worked on.
âÄúThere was certainly a lot of support for the rehab by the tenants âÄî and complaining too,âÄù Scobey said with a laugh. âÄúNo one wants to move or likes the inconvenience. Marriages split up when people have their kitchen remodeled.âÄù
Abdullahi said he was looking forward to the improvements but was also worried about his family moving since he didnâÄôt know when they would need to pack up their things.
âÄúThe moving is a problem right now, itâÄôs winter,âÄù Abdullahi said. âÄúBut itâÄôs a problem we have to [face]. If they move us then weâÄôre moving.âÄù