Prime Place concerns mount at community meeting

Prime Place residents, neighbors and lawmakers discussed issues with the apartment complex at a meeting in Prospect Park on Monday night.

President and CEO of the Prospect Park Association Vince Netz informs the audience of the situation regarding Prime Place Apartments at the St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on Monday, Dec. 11. 

Jack Rodgers

President and CEO of the Prospect Park Association Vince Netz informs the audience of the situation regarding Prime Place Apartments at the St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on Monday, Dec. 11. 

Cleo Krejci

Prime Place Apartments, home to more than 100 University of Minnesota students, continues to face criticism from residents, neighbors and lawmakers for construction issues and safety violations. 

Concerned parties met at a public forum organized by Prospect Park Association Monday night at St. Francis Cabrini Church to discuss ongoing issues at the apartments on 27th Avenue SE.

After November inspections by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council revealed fire safety and construction code violations in the occupied portion of the apartment complex, many are still seeking legal action and resolution to a range of issues.

Meeting attendees discussed their concerns, such as poor air quality, binding lease terms and resident safety as two-thirds of the building is still being constructed. 

Many said they wish the City of Minneapolis would not have granted the building a temporary certificate of occupancy, which allowed tenants to move in this October, even though Prime Place authorized tenants to move in on Sept. 30.

Issues with air circulation in the building have left students searching for other housing options and seeking legal representation, said Bill Dane, staff attorney at University of Minnesota Student Legal Services.

Dane said USLS has gotten a number of students out of individual leases.

Many students who signed leases have not moved in and are waiting for two-thirds of the building to be completed. Most recently, tenants have been told they will be able to move into their new apartments in February 2018.

“Moving forward, I think it’s really going to be important for the city to monitor the progress at Prime Place,” Dane said of the unfinished portion.

He added that USLS has been approached by more than 300 students since he first heard of student issues in summer 2017.

“We’ve devoted… an unprecedented amount of time and energy dealing with these issues to date, and my fear is that it’s only a fraction of what it is moving forward,” Dane said.

Cam Gordon, Ward 2 Minneapolis City Council member, where Prime Place is located, committed to a meeting with Dane and others as a result of the problems. Gordon said he hopes to work with the city to send other inspectors to the building. 

“I think we do need to get people in there to find out what is making people sick,” Gordon said. 

Vince Netz, president and CEO of the Prospect Park Association, said neighborhood residents have been unhappy with Prime Place for more than a year. Neighbors noticed noisy construction, trash and traffic on 27th Avenue SE near the construction site. 

Hannah McMahon, University senior, said she hopes the meeting will allow for resolution she’s been seeking since she moved in.

“I just want… Prime Place to be held accountable for the position they’ve put all of their residents in,” McMahon said. 

She added that she hopes to see more advocacy from the city.

James Newham, district supervisor for City of Minneapolis Construction Code Services, rhetorically asked meeting attendees if students would be interested in moving out of the building after the temporary certificate of occupancy expires. 

Many attendees replied “yes” in unison, and students chimed in saying they hope to move out of the building.

Dane and Netz discussed a possible path of action with help from the University’s Board of Regents to aid students still concerned with the issues. 

Netz said the Prospect Park Association took notes and recordings of the meeting to send to Prime Place management, who were invited to the meeting but did not come.

Prime Place declined to comment on this story. 

Netz said he is concerned by an anticipated boom in student housing complexes developing in Prospect Park in coming years. 

“We don’t want what happened at Prime Place to happen again,” Netz said.