Rybak helps break ground on new Como housing project

The development will include affordable, non-student homes.

Alex Robinson

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak played baseball in Van Cleve Park as a kid, but yesterday he was there to break ground.

Rybak gave a short speech to announce the start of construction for Van Cleve Development.

The development is a 3.5-acre lot that plans to combine low-income housing and rental housing with higher-priced condos.

Project for Pride in Living, Cabrini Partnership, Habitat for Humanity and developer Jeff Laux are all participating in the project.

The development will include supportive housing, nonstudent, affordable rental units, townhomes and market-rate condos.

The 236 housing units, which will cost between $35 million and $40 million, are expected to be completed by 2011, said Chris Wilson, the PPL director of real estate development.

The Van Cleve site sits in the elbow created by the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad and 13th Avenue in Southeast Como.

Southeast Como consists of about 80 percent rental housing, with many students making the area their temporary home, neighborhood coordinator James De Sota said.

Even though the Van Cleve Development will not specifically offer student housing, De Sota said the new development will fit neatly into the community.

Southeast Como wasn’t always dominated by student housing, and bringing families to the neighborhood is essential for strengthening the community, De Sota said.

“When you just have short-term rental property, what ends up happening is you lose a lot of institutional knowledge of a neighborhood, and that’s dangerous,” he said.

De Sota said he was willing to work with Cabrini Partnership because many of the employers had ties to Southeast Como.

“They really understood where the community was coming from,” De Sota said.

Some community members, however, don’t think the new development will benefit Southeast Como.

Advertising senior Kareem Ahmed has lived in the neighborhood for two years and said he’s worried the new development could increase the crime rate and isn’t a good fit for the middle-class neighborhood.

“This neighborhood is pretty nice, and I don’t want it to turn out like the West Bank,” Ahmed said.

Political science and German studies senior Dan Wilken lives across the street from the development site and said he favors the idea of low-income housing in the area.

Wilken, however, said he opposes the idea of supportive housing moving into a neighborhood occupied mostly by students.

“My girlfriend and some of her friends walk around here at night, and that causes me some concern,” Wilken said.

Rybak expressed no concern about the new development causing higher crime rates and said it will benefit not only Southeast Como but the rest of Minneapolis as well.

“We are literally doing ground-breaking work to make sure that in every part of this city there is a place for every person to live in, and it says that we value the people living in those units,” Rybak said.