$80M in loans may aid ailing Riverside Plaza

The updates will include fixing heating and cooling systems, repairing concrete, repainting the exterior, renovating common areas and increasing energy-efficiency.

by Andre Eggert

After turning on their faucets, some residents in taller Riverside Plaza buildings have to wait 20 to 40 minutes to get hot water, according to a Minneapolis City Council document, but that may change with $80 million in loans for renovations approved by a City Council committee on Monday.
The committee approval was the final step before the proposal, which would help fund a major building overhaul, faces the full City Council on Friday.
The project will focus on mechanical work to heating, cooling and water systems, according to city documents.
 âÄúThis is work that needs doing, and itâÄôs been a long time coming,âÄù said Councilwoman Betsy Hodges, chairwoman of the Ways and Means/Budget Committee.
Now, construction is expected to start Jan. 3 and should be finished around the end of 2012, said Chris Sherman, a project manager at Sherman Associates, the company that owns the building.
The $80 million that Riverside Plaza is receiving in bond allocations will be sold to private investors and repaid over 30 to 40 years, George Sherman, the companyâÄôs owner, said.
Minneapolis is also issuing a $1.9 million loan for the project because it falls within the guidelines for low-income housing, he said.
In addition to mechanical work, the project will make energy efficiency a priority, repair concrete, improve outside lighting for safety, renovate common areas such as laundry rooms and repaint the exterior.
âÄúThe heating and cooling and the plumbing is just aged very badly,âÄù Fredda Scobey, executive director of the Riverside Plaza Tenants Association, said.
Because of its inefficiencies, Riverside Plaza is using as much as three times the amount of energy it should, Scobey said. Energy consumption is expected to fall once heating and cooling systems are fixed and better windows are installed.
For residents whose apartments are being renovated, âÄúhotel unitsâÄù are being set up, Scobey said. âÄúTheyâÄôre setting up a whole system of providing nice, fresh furnished apartments for people to move to. So they only need to bring their cooking gear and clothing.âÄù
The city will issue a building permit in the next month but then there will be several steps to go after city-level approval, Chris Sherman said.
The owners are currently vying to add Riverside Plaza to the National Register for Historic Places, which would open up other funding, Chris Sherman said.
The complex, which opened in 1973, was designed by Ralph Rapson, head of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. It is the largest affordable housing complex in the state of Minnesota.
Although the state has recommended it be listed for national historic status, it must go through the National Park Service for final approval.
Chris Sherman said he is confident Riverside Plaza will be accepted for historic status.
âÄúItâÄôs not a rubber stamp,âÄù he said. âÄúWe are confident the property deserves to be listed âĦ and from the opinions weâÄôve heard from experts, it will.âÄù