Duluth approves aid for 2 affordable housing developments
One project will cater to seniors and another will help people either experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing shelter.
DULUTH — Two housing projects that are expected to help some of the city’s most vulnerable residents got a boost Monday.
The Duluth City Council unanimously approved $300,000 in assistance to help the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority deal with cost overruns encountered as it bid out work on a 70-unit senior housing project called Skyridge Flats.
Councilors also signed off on a plan to provide $1.6 million for Plover Place, a development One Roof Community Housing plans to build in Duluth Heights, with an eye toward combating homelessness. At large Councilor Noah Hobbs abstained from the 8-0 vote, as he works for One Roof.
Funding for both projects was made possible thanks to funding the city received through the American Rescue Plan Act. As part of a plan laid out by Mayor Emily Larson, $19.2 million of that federal pandemic relief will be used to foster the development of more affordable housing units in the city.
The Duluth HRA expected to spend about $17.5 million to build Skyridge Flats, but Theresa Bajda, Duluth’s senior housing developer, said the authority encountered an unpleasant surprise.
“When they went into the bids, they were $2 million higher than originally estimated. That’s not something that’s unheard of lately in the community,” she said, citing rising construction costs.
Bajda said the HRA has since worked with its engineering team and contractors to revise plans, reducing the anticipated project costs by about $500,000 and also agreed to defer more of the development fee it had hoped to collect. St. Louis County has stepped up its support and is expected to match the city’s contribution to Skyridge Flats. Meanwhile, the Duluth HRA worked with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency as well, to secure the additional funding needed to close the financial gap it faced. The state agency already had pledged $13.9 million in support of the project.
"It's just exciting as heck to see the decisions we have made and the things the community has pushed for. I'm just really appreciative of all the partners and good work that keeps happening to help us increase our housing stock in Duluth," 1st District Councilor Gary Anderson said.
Skyridge Flats intends to serve residents who are 55 and older, with 42 units offered to people who make no more than 50% of the area median income, 21 units reserved for people making 30% or less of the area median income, and seven units set aside for veterans who might otherwise experience homelessness.
The four-story building, with parking tucked underneath, will be constructed at the corner of Central Entrance and Village View Drive as part of the Harbor Highlands development.
Jill Keppers, executive director of the Duluth HRA, expects construction of Skyridge Flats to begin this coming spring, putting the project on track to welcome its first tenants by 2024.
Plover Place is designed to serve people either experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of losing stable housing. It will be built in two phases, each consisting of a two-story, 12-unit building for a total of 24 new units at the corner of West Palm Street and Robin Avenue.
Tenants will have their own private quarters, complete with a personal bathroom. They also will have access to common areas, including: a flexible quiet room, a gathering space with an adjoining shared kitchen, a lounge equipped with a television, an outdoor patio, laundry room and storage space.
Staff will have office space and will be available on site to provide support services.
"This is a huge step in the right direction for our community and a huge investment in that supportive housing model that is really amazing to see in Duluth," said 2nd District Councilor Mike Mayou Monday night.
Construction of Plover Place is expected to begin by January 2024, with completion anticipated before 2026.