The Metropolitan Council has tracked $4.2 billion in development along the existing METRO Green Line, a jump from the calculated $3.2 billion last fall.
“The continued development along the Green Line tells a story of how transit investment can transform communities while better connecting people to the entire region,” said Met Council Chair Adam Duininck. “The Green Line success story illustrates exactly why transit is such a good investment for our communities. At a cost of $957 million – half of that covered by the federal government – the Green Line has provided a serious return on investment for Minnesotans.”
Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman says he is pleasantly surprised by the pace of development.
“Though we always expected development to follow the LRT, this pace is ahead of expectations,” said Mayor Coleman. “Original projections called for $7 billion worth of development along the line over 30 years. After just five years (three years of construction and almost two years of operation), we are already halfway to our goal. And we are absolutely hearing from developers that the Green Line is driving their investments.”
The region is now seeing a similar dynamic along the planned Southwest LRT (SWLRT). The Met Council has tracked $430 million in development, either finished or underway on the extended route. The Blue Line Extension (Bottineau LRT) has also seen $358 million of development in various stages.
This development comes even before construction has begun on either line. Heavy construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 for SWLRT and 2018 for the Blue Line Extension.
”Developments, both existing and underway, along Green Line, SWLRT, and the Blue Line Extension now total nearly $5 billion,” said Duininck. “It is critical that the state legislature provides the remaining local funding necessary for SWLRT, so we can not only leverage $895 million in federal funds, but continue to spur even more development in the local communities along the line. We want these federal dollars to be invested in our Minnesota communities, not given away to Seattle or San Francisco who are eager to move forward with transit projects in their regions.”
In addition to spurring development, SWLRT is expected to create at least 7,500 jobs totaling at least $350 million in payroll to workers and contractors across the state.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers says the construction of Green Line alone provided work for hundreds of its electricians and system technicians. But even more exciting is the prospect of continued employment in the construction of developments along the line and the future LRT extensions.
“You’re looking at a five- to seven-year bump after the project is completed. If you look down University Avenue and count the new buildings, it’s not just the initial construction but the construction of new homes and businesses afterward. It creates an ongoing jobs project,” said Ray Zeran, political director for IBEW Local 292, which has nearly 5,000 members from Minneapolis to the South Dakota border.
Spurring development in communities along future Green Line Extension
The Met Council’s SWLRT Office has tracked $430 million in private investments in existing buildings, new construction and announced developments since fall 2011 when the federal government authorized “preliminary engineering” (now called project development).
In Eden Prairie, Willmar-based TPI Hospitality, plans to build a five-story, 105-room Hampton Inn near the Southwest line. In addition to a Minnesota developer, Willmar-based Cities Edge Architects will design the hotel. Kevin Hansen, architect with Cities Edge, told the Eden Prairie Planning Commission last month that the LRT is viewed as a benefit for the hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2017.
In Hopkins, a current apartment building uses the planned Green Line Extension in its marketing materials to potential tenants. Gallery Flats, a 177-unit apartment building in downtown Hopkins, opened in 2013. The building is located on Eighth Avenue, just across Excelsior Boulevard from the future Downtown Hopkins Station, on a street Hopkins is designing to tie the station to its downtown area.
“It’s really vital that the light rail get in here,” said Bruce Rubinger, general partner in Sidal Realty, the owner of Gallery Flats. The new LRT line “will be a great thing once it comes in, and a great benefit for people who can go to and from work on it,” he said.
Also in Hopkins, Doran Companies is in the early stages of construction on The Moline, a 241-unit apartment building across the street from Gallery Flats. That building will include at-grade public parking that can be used by Green Line riders.
“It’s a great location,” said John Wodele, a spokesman for Doran Companies.
Wodele notes that the city of Hopkins has a lot of plans for its urban downtown renewal along Eighth Avenue, and is moving forward with that project. Known as “The Artery,” several blocks of Eighth Avenue will be redesigned into a pedestrian-friendly environment with redevelopment potential. Artery construction is set to start in 2017 when heavy construction also is scheduled to begin on the SWLRT line.
In St. Louis Park, city officials are seeing ongoing multi-family housing developments near the planned Wooddale Station.
Blue Line Extension route sees lots of development already in Brooklyn Park
The Met Council’s Blue Line Extension project office has similarly tracked $358 million in development since summer 2014 when the federal government approved the beginning of project development.
Brooklyn Park has seen a flurry of development near West Broadway Avenue’s intersection with both Highway 610 and 93rd Avenue North, including:
- Millennium Pharmaceutical’s $70 million investment in an existing pharmaceutical facility
- A new $27.9 million Menards store
- A new $23.5 million Hennepin County Library under construction, located across the street from the planned 85th Avenue Blue Line Extension station
- A new $16.7 million facility for Nilfisk (a maker of professional floor polishers), which is moving its American headquarters and 300 jobs from Plymouth to Brooklyn Park
For more information on the SWLRT and Blue Line Extension projects, visit swlrt.org or BlueLineExt.org.