The Free Press
A majority of area respondents believe the city of Mankato should abandon its efforts to create a mixed-housing and daycare development north of the downtown Cub Foods, according to a Free Press online question.
Out of 179 total respondents, 102 voters — almost 57% — say Mankato shouldn’t continue to support the proposed $26 million Gateway West project. Another 77 residents disagreed.
Gateway West failed to win funding for a second straight year after the Minnesota Housing Finance Authority announced the latest round of affordable housing grants and loans last month.
The proposal totaled 80 units of affordable housing as part of a larger redevelopment of a five-acre city-owned vacant lot north of Cub Foods West. Developed by Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, Gateway West would have dramatically transformed the former home of the municipal streets and transit departments. It proposed 30 units of supportive housing for people at risk of homelessness and a 160-slot daycare center in addition to 50 apartments for lower-income workers.
In the 2018 competition, Gateway West narrowly failed to win the subsidized loans and federal tax credits, which typically provide the bulk of the equity for affordable housing projects. With Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership’s exclusive rights to redevelop the site about to expire early this year, the City Council agreed to extend those development rights until this fall to give SWMHP a chance to revise the project and apply again for the tax credits.
SWMHP officials expressed high confidence that it would be a winner this year but were left disappointed.
Only about half of the applications were successful, and the Gateway West project was a relatively large request at $13.8 million in loans and tax credits.
If SWMHP receives encouragement from the state, the organization indicated it would be interested in pursuing the project again in 2020.
Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said the city also needs more information from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency before deciding what to do next with redevelopment of the former Public Works Department site, one of the last remaining large vacant areas near Mankato’s city center.
Community Development Director Paul Vogel said information received from the state will be presented to the City Council, probably in January, along with recommended next steps.
As of Nov. 20, SWMHP no longer has an exclusive right to develop the property.
The Free Press online question, sent out Wednesday, asked, “Should Mankato continue to support the $26 million Gateway West redevelopment project?”
There were two options to answer, “yes” or “no.”
Commenters believed the city should drop the project to allow for more free market competition, which could bring more economic development opportunities to Mankato.
“This is a prime redevelopment location, time to open it up to a new RFP,” Ed Dramback wrote. “While the city’s goals for affordable housing on the site are laudable, this site should be developed to its highest and best use, hopefully incorporating both commercial and housing. Regarding the desire for affordable housing: yes there is an affordable housing crisis, but the city needs to examine policy from top to bottom and leverage affordability with every new development instead of sending in these wish list projects and hoping the state and federal dollars will come in for them.”
Jerry Groebner wrote, “... that property would be better served as a retail/business development. It is surrounded by business use properties and therefore should not have housing dropped in the midst of it. This is very poor city planning if any planning is really being used at all.”