Micro-unit apartments moving into University area

One micro-unit project is being constructed in Marcy-Holmes while another is proposed.

Illustration by Sarah Mai

Illustration by Sarah Mai

Caitlin Anderson

A University of Minnesota neighborhood could see more tiny apartments – a trend mirroring the Twin Cities as a whole.

Marcy-Holmes’ newest tiny apartments, also known as micro-units, are currently being built with more potentially on the way. This micro-unit project, along with another similar development going through the city process, is being led by developer North Bay Companies in partnership with architect DJR Architecture, Inc. Developers said this type of living caters to University student needs and provides the area with more single-living options. 

“There needs to be a variety of housing … stock on campus, there’s a … few amount of studio units because the cost is so high to build,” said North Bay founder Daniel Oberpriller. “People do better when they live alone and closer to campus in general.”

Sizes of micro-units around the University have ranged from 320 to 787 square feet per unit. 

Across the Twin Cities, new apartments catering to a population willing to sacrifice space for a lower cost are popping up, including SoPHI in Minneapolis and RAY in St. Paul.

These micro-units also are not new to the University area. Cozē Flats opened in 2014 with units ranging from 402 to 787 square feet.

Despite its potential benefits, micro-unit living is not for everyone, said Marcy-Holmes resident Marcus Mills. 

“The idea is, it’s a place that you’re not going to be spending a whole lot of time,” Mills said. “I think it’s brilliant. I think it can work in a number of ways. I worry about it in Minneapolis because the tedium of six months of winter enclosed in such a small space.”

North Bay’s “Trademark” apartment, currently under construction at 1121 4th St. SE, will likely open by this fall. The apartment would total 64 units with each sized at 320 square feet. The rooms will feature a “murphy bed” that has the ability to fold into the wall and convert into a couch. 

Next door, more micro-unit apartments at 1127 4th St. SE have been proposed by North Bay and will be presented to the city’s planning commission committee on Thursday. These plans include larger micro-units, ranging from 398 square feet to 420 square feet per unit, Oberpriller said. 

Students are naturally transient, said Marcy-Holmes resident Hung Russell, but creating infrastructure for these populations could cultivate a lack of longevity in the community. He said micro-units could prove to be a fad.

“There comes a time when this type of housing falls out of favor, then it’s going to make it rather difficult to come back and retrofit these.”

In each of North Bay’s developments, all units will have a kitchenette, bathroom and furnishing, with each floor containing a community lounge space, full kitchen and laundry room, according to city documents.

These studios would go for market-rate with utilities included in the price, Oberpriller said. 

University student Hank Berger said the units would probably be best for those who go out often.

“It sounds cozy but … I don’t know if I would like to live in it. I think I’d go kind of crazy,” Berger said. 

Nicholas Licht, a former University student who lives at Cozē Flats, said he likes the size of his one-bedroom, which is slightly larger than the apartment’s studios. 

“The space is very manageable, especially when you’re living by yourself or even with one other person,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of work maintaining it.”