Business owners OK student

by Michelle Moriarity

If local business owners’ attitudes are any indication, plans for an innovative student housing complex in Seven Corners have a promising future.
After viewing detailed designs for the structure Thursday afternoon, delegates for the Cedar-Riverside Business Association unanimously approved the construction, which will begin next spring.
“I think most of the business people on Seven Corners are pleased,” said association president Pete Goelzer. “(The developers) seem to be legitimately interested in what the community thinks.”
Representatives from Education Environments, the Atlanta-based real estate company heading the project, told business owners community participation is key in making the project a success.
“We have to incorporate our project into the fabric of the community,” said Greg Almquist, president of the company.
The construction calls for a connection between Sgt. Preston’s and the bottom two floors of the complex, which will house retail stores and office space. The ground level will also have a student commons with study areas, computer facilities and a recreation center.
The remainder of the structure will contain one-, two- and four-bedroom apartments, complete with one bathroom per tenant, Internet connections, security and phone lines in every bedroom. Each unit will be fully furnished with its own laundry facilities, Almquist said.
“We’ve got a whole lot of facilities here,” said architect Doug Lee, “and they’re here to help the students learn.”
Education Environments representatives are developing similar student housing complexes at the University of California-Irvine. Almquist told business owners he has researched student housing and has found that housing shortages are common nationwide.
Minneapolis, he added, was an ideal place to begin development.
“It’s a good location,” Almquist said. “We have a community that is proactive for this type of growth. You have a university that is proactive for working with the private sector.”
Some of that proactivity, however, originally resulted in business owners’ hesitation. Several said the influx of residents would create a parking crunch. Officials responded by adding 150 spaces to the building’s underground parking design.
Others expressed concern about the marketability of the units. Rent will start at about $575 per tenant when the complex opens in summer or fall 2000, Almquist said.
“We are right in line with the University’s (rates),” he said. “We’re the only market with the private baths. Today our children are coming and they say, ‘I’ve had my own bathroom and I want a place that’s secure.'”
In spite of their reservations, Seven Corners merchants are enthusiastic about the impending development.
“We’re for the project,” said Sgt. Preston’s owner Phil Ordway, “and we will do what we have to to make sure it’s on a time line (for completion).”