An ambitious plan to redevelop a vacant block at Lake and Nicollet received a major boost from the city of Minneapolis earlier this year when the city allocated $3.3 million for an affordable housing development on the former Wells Fargo Bank site.
The project, a joint effort of Wells Fargo, Project for Pride in Living and the Cultural Wellness Center, will provide 110 units of affordable housing on the Lake Street block caught up in the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in 2020.
The 3030 Nicollet project will serve individuals and families with a range of incomes. Twenty-four of the 110 units will be affordable for people making up to 30% of the median income or $25,200 for a two-person household. The remaining units will be available to individuals and families making up to 50% of the median income, or $42,000 for a two-person family. The project will include a mix of two-, three- and four-bedroom units.
PPL had the option of increasing its income limit to 60% of area median, but chose to keep the cap at 50%, according to Senior Vice President Mike LaFave. “We wanted to make sure that 3030 Nicollet will serve large, low-income families whose housing options are very limited in today’s market,” LaFave said.
WOMAN, BIPOC-OWNED PARTNER
PPL is partnering with a local architectural firm, Design by Melo, to build the 110-unit project. Melo’s founder and principal architect, Damaris Hollingsworth, said the partnership was a good fit for her minority and women-owned firm. “We knew that PPL shared our values. That was an important plus for us,” Hollingsworth said.
Before the firm began its design work, Hollingsworth was part of a six-month community engagement process facilitated by the Cultural Wellness Center. “All three of our agencies recognized that the traditional model of engagement did not always work,” LaFave said. “We needed to hear from people who are not able to come to evening meetings. So, the Wellness Center used its staff to move through the community talking informally with people who live in the area in order to get their input.”
“Our aim was to expand the scope of the 3030 Nicollet project beyond physical development to include enhancement of human capital,” said the Wellness Center’s Anthony Tayler. “Through our engagement process, community members told us that they wanted more than just another affordable housing building on the Wells site. They wanted a broader effort to that could reach people and families living in surrounding neighborhoods.”
“Community members told us they were not all that concerned about the color of the bricks and other design specifics,” Hollingsworth added. “They were more concerned about the long-term impact of the project and how it could affect nearby neighbors as well as the people who will live in the 3030 building. We kept hearing that people wanted a space that made them feel welcome, so the design of the community spaces was an important part of the project.”
Community engagement encouraged PPL and its partners to add an entrepreneurship feature to the affordable housing development. That component will apply to the 9,000 square feet of commercial space adjacent to a new Wells Fargo branch on the site. In a conventional real estate development, the 9,000 square feet would have been leased to commercial tenants. But, rather than leasing the space, PPL will develop a series of commercial condos for community businesses that will own rather than rent the space they will occupy in the 3030 Nicollet building.
“Ownership is important for these emerging entrepreneurs because it will help them create intergenerational wealth for their families while they are growing their businesses,” Taylor noted. The Wellness Center’s community engagement facilitator said that 3030 Nicollet will also include a workforce development component aimed at providing jobs with family support wages for people living within a mile of the Nicollet and Lake site.
Linking affordable housing to entrepreneurial development received high marks from the Lake Street Council Executive Director Allison Sharkey. “What is really exciting is that PPL and the Wellness Center are trying something new, a way for small businesses to build equity through real estate ownership. This is a forward-thinking model that might provide some inspiration for the even bigger redevelopment across the street at the Kmart site,” Sharkey said.
Laurie Nordquist, Wells Fargo Central Lead Region President, echoed Sharkey’s views about 3030 project’s innovative features. “PPL and the team they assembled brought creativity and commitment to this process that will allow Wells Fargo to continue serving the banking needs of our customers, while also putting the site to more uses that directly benefit our neighbors,” Nordquist noted.
Ward 7 Minneapolis City Council member Lisa Goodman commented on the project’s significance as part of a broader initiative to rebuild Lake Street. “The leadership provided by PPL’s team is particularly important now, when we need to move ahead with rebuilding in a way that is transparent and equitable to those who have been displaced. The city, through our Affordable Housing Trust Fund, is proud to assist with financing for this important effort,” Goodman said.
PPL hopes to begin construction in November of this year, but the start date could slip into 2023, LaFave said.
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