MANKATO — A 48-unit apartment building targeted at tenants from a wide range of incomes, along with a row of townhouses, should be under construction in March on a long-vacant lot just north of Cub Foods West.
The Mankato City Council unanimously gave its final approval Monday night to “The Neighborhood,” a $36 million redevelopment of the city’s former Public Works Department site on Lamm Street.
“This project is one we’ve been anticipating for quite some time now,” said Mark Konz, associate director of planning and development services for the city.
In some ways, it’s a project more than a quarter-century in the making.
First, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had to persuade the Minnesota Legislature and governor to finance a large new regional headquarters in Mankato. When that finally occurred after multiple failed attempts, the new MnDOT facility needed to be constructed and occupied, allowing Mankato to consolidate its Public Works Department in the old state transportation complex at the corner of Hoffman Road and Victory Drive.
Only then did the former municipal site became available for redevelopment. The council sought proposals for redevelopment, awarding redevelopment rights in 2018 to the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership for its expansive affordable housing and child care proposal. But after two years of failed attempts to finalize a financing package, SWMHP was dropped in favor of Kansas-based Cohen-Esrey Development, which pledged to transform the five-acre site through a two-phase project to add more than 100 units of rental housing.
With Monday’s rezoning and approval of the final development plan, the first phase will be under construction in March, according to Brian Sweeney, development director for Cohen-Esrey.
That initial phase will include the 48-unit Sinclair Flats apartment building with most units targeted at lower-middle-class renters, some reserved for tenants with incomes of no more than 30% of the area median. The four-story building, which will also include some market-rate units, will be on the eastern side of the lot across Lamm Street from the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.
Nine townhouses — named the “Main Street Townhomes” in keeping with the Sinclair Lewis theme — will also be built in the initial construction and will be located to the west of Sinclair Flats, abutting Sibley Parkway.
The second phase could follow soon but only if the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency approves Cohen-Esrey’s application for affordable housing tax credits for Lewis Lofts later this year.
That project would add 60 apartments split between a pair of four-story apartment buildings on the western part of the lot. Lewis Lofts would be reserved for lower-income senior citizens.
As part of the project, the council approved the vacation of Dewey Street, which will be shifted to the center of the lot and renamed Dewey Lane. It will align with the private road through the Cub Foods shopping area, providing a connection from the Riverfront Drive-Stoltzman Road intersection through the development to Sibley Parkway.