Large-scale development presents affordability plans

The project’s plan includes 73 affordable bed spaces.

The McDonald's located on the corner of Fourth Street Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast is seen on Saturday, Aug. 31. The proposed development would replace Mcdonald's as well as other popular businesses such as Dinkytown Wine and Spirits.

Jack Rodgers

The McDonald’s located on the corner of Fourth Street Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast is seen on Saturday, Aug. 31. The proposed development would replace Mcdonald’s as well as other popular businesses such as Dinkytown Wine and Spirits.

Caitlin Anderson

A large-scale development proposed for Dinkytown has revealed its approach for affordable student housing.

The CA Ventures development, proposed at the current McDonald’s lot, presented its affordable student housing numbers last week at a Minnesota Student Association event. The plan, which includes 73 affordable bed spaces, comes after months of conversation between the developers and community stakeholders. 

Next month, a proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires developers to include affordable units in large developments, is also set to be voted on by the Minneapolis City Council. A definition for student housing could be part of this ordinance. 

If passed, this definition means CA Ventures would need to comply with inclusionary zoning standards. But CA Ventures said they will be follow through on this plan regardless of what happens with the council. 

Ward 3 City Council member Steve Fletcher and Minnesota Student Association members were among the proponents for reaching an improved definition and plan for student affordability. 

“[This] would be the first new affordable housing built for students in decades, so I think that’s really exciting,” Fletcher said. His ward includes Dinkytown and the rest of Marcy-Holmes. 

CA Ventures’ affordability numbers take after proposed requirements for student housing under inclusionary zoning, with eight percent of the total 915 beds being affordable. CA Ventures was unable to be reached for additional comment at the time of publication.

Seventy-five percent of the affordable beds will be in double-occupancy units at $550 per month. Twenty-five percent of the affordable beds will be single-occupancy at $635 per month. 

“Seeing developers that are willing … to provide that resource is great,” said Rebecca Cowin, MSA’s local government and advocacy coordinator. “We’re really happy with the fact that they are making explicit efforts to engage students.”

This affordability plan will be included in the development’s application next month.

The development team also announced it plans to allow qualified local businesses to have a discounted rate of 70 percent in the retail space below the apartments. 

After being left out of the interim policy, the proposed definition for student housing only includes students who meet certain federal affordable housing eligibility requirements. Some federal guidelines would require applicants to be over the age of 24, married or a graduate or professional student. 

Through an amendment to the proposal, Fletcher said he aims to expand the definition to allow for more traditional students and leases.

“We just have to define it a little bit differently,” he said. 

Under current city policy, CA Ventures would not need to include any affordable units. 

But the inclusion of these units could help the proposal gain city approval. The project is proposing a height of 10 stories in an area that would typically only allow six. To justify the height, it needs to have significant community benefit  — a topic highly debated by community members. 

James Farnsworth, MSA student representative to the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said MSA is excited to be more proactive in the housing conversation near campus. 

“It’s an exciting time for affordability,” he said. 

Cowin said CA Ventures’ approach can serve as a model for other student housing developments around campus.

“It’s really important to set the precedent that they engage students specifically in their process, especially if it’s going to be targeted towards us,” Cowin said. “I would love to have way more affordable housing in Dinkytown … We will continue to try to push that and engage that, no matter what’s getting built under what policies.”