In September, the Metropolitan Council awarded nine grants totaling $1 million to support cities as they prepare for development or create local policies that influence physical development. Cities awarded grants in this round include Brooklyn Center, Chaska, Fridley, Minneapolis, New Brighton, Saint Paul, and St. Louis Park.
Like all Livable Communities grants the Met Council makes, the pre-development and policy development grant programs support goals in Thrive MSP 2040, the regional development guide, including:
- Create more housing options
- Create or preserve living-wage jobs
- Intensify land uses to take advantage of connections between amenities
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve natural resources
- Realize more equitable development outcomes
Supporting development in the early stages
The pre-development grants support cities with projects in the early stage of physical development or redevelopment, explained Hannah Gary, planning analyst in the Met Council’s Community Development division. The grants fund feasibility analysis, infrastructure improvements, design, community engagement, and other activities needed to ready a project for construction. Grants awarded this round:
Brooklyn Center Opportunity Site Phase 1 – Resurrecting Faith: $300,000 for architectural design and construction documents for a conference/event center, 24-hour childcare center, therapy offices, and barber/beautician rental suites. The project has intentional co-location of affordable childcare near affordable housing and focuses on entrepreneurs and culturally representative businesses and services.
Unity Building at 401 E. Lake St., Minneapolis: $150,000 for development of a travel demand management plan; architectural design; and planning for alternative energy systems, passive building design, and landscaping. The building will replace two dilapidated mixed-use commercial buildings with a new four-story commercial building celebrating the African and Latine immigrant traditions of Lake Street.
The CORA, 1106 26th Ave SE, Minneapolis: $150,000 for a feasibility study, stormwater management plan, architectural design, and design workshops/community engagement. The proposed development is a five-story mixed-use building with 90+ residential units and retail/office space. Units will be limited to households with incomes at 30% to 60% of area median income, with one section reserved for residents ages 62 years and older.
Affordable Commercial St. Louis Park: $90,000 for design workshops and community engagement, and feasibility studies to develop and evaluate development scenarios. St. Louis Park is partnering with Partnership in Property Commercial Land Trust on an initiative to create long-term affordable commercial spaces in the city for historically underrepresented communities.
796 Stewart Avenue (Little Mod), Saint Paul: $8,600 toward a market/feasibility study to evaluate development scenarios for a proposed development that would be a co-living project, combining community and sustainability. The concept features leased private bedroom/bathroom suites surrounding a high-quality, intentionally designed communal kitchen and living area. The project is proposed to be net-zero emissions within a short walk to a high-frequency transit corridor.
694 and 600 Minnehaha Avenue (Hamm’s Brewery II): $200,000 for architectural design, market/feasibility study, and soil testing. The proposed East End Apartments, new construction on a redevelopment site, would be affordable with a focus on a family-friendly rental unit mix and multiculturally sensitive design.
“I am impressed with the creativity in these projects around designing new spaces for diverse living styles and the combination of affordability for residents and businesses,” said Toni Carter, Met Council member and member of the Community Development Committee.
Creating local policies that achieve regional goals
The policy development program provides funding to support locally adopted policies that influence physical development in line with regional goals. In this funding round, the Met Council awarded grants to three policy initiatives:
Zoning code updates, Chaska: $50,000 for zoning updates to reduce parking requirements and right-size landscaping for multi-family projects to improve the pedestrian experience. Another goal is to reduce pavement cover to lessen the urban heat island effect.
Zoning code updates, Fridley: $15,000 for zoning code updates to support a more efficient, equitable development pattern. Goals are to increase density, implement active transportation standards, and reduce off-street parking requirements for multifamily and industrial projects.
Housing study implementation: accessory dwelling units, New Brighton: $36,400 to develop a new policy that will set accessory dwelling unit regulations in the city with goals to provide housing units at more affordable price points, offer an aging-in-place option, and increase density in the city.
Livable Communities program promotes prosperity and economic development
The Met Council has been making Livable Communities grants to local jurisdictions in the seven-county metro area since 1995. To be eligible and compete for Livable Communities funding, metro area cities must participate in the Livable Communities program, which provides grants for:
- Affordable housing
- Development that promotes mixed-use and connected land uses linking housing, jobs, and services
- Brownfield or polluted-site cleanup
- Transit-oriented development
75 cities and 1 township are participating in the Livable Communities program in 2023.