Luxury Apartments – City subsidy proposed for senior apartment project at former Moose Country bar site – Twin Cities
The city council will review and discuss the TIF plan at Monday night’s meeting. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for the city council’s May 10 meeting.
CLOSED FOR YEARS
Joe Schaefer shut down his Moose Country Whiskey & Food three years ago after reaching a deal with a developer to sell the decades-old bar and the 29,000-square-foot River Bluffs Center, which had 20 tenants. The developer walked away, but Opus stepped up a year later up with an offer and plan to build senior apartments on the site.
In its latest TIF plan, Opus is asking the city to create a TIF district around the redevelopment project and requesting 90 percent of available tax-increment reimbursements over 18 years or $3.9 million, whichever occurs first, according to Shannon Sweeney, a consultant with David Drown Associates, which the city hired to review the subsidy plan.
The dollar amount in the request stays the same from one the developer made in January, but the duration of the term is cut down two years. The reduction in years would provide for additional reimbursement if the market value of the housing complex is increased by the county, Sweeney said.
“Opus is looking for any feedback on this proposed modification to their request,” he wrote to city staff in a letter included in Monday’s city council agenda packet. “I consider it to be a move in the city’s favor based on the parameters that I communicated to them on how a TIF agreement would be structured.”
The council approved a concept plan for the redevelopment in mid-2019. That came after Opus tweaked an initial plan based off feedback they received from the planning commission and objections by the river advocacy group Friends of the Mississippi River, which said it would damage delicate bluff ecosystems and harm the river’s scenic beauty.
Opus changed the shape of the building, which decreased the encroachment on the bluff and improved the front setback.
A LOOK AT DEMAND
Previous questions by residents and some on the council revolved around whether more housing is needed in Lilydale, a quiet town known for its high concentration of seniors. The city has only a handful of single-family homes, with the rest of the housing stock comprising of upscale condos, twin-homes, town homes and apartment buildings. About 64 percent of the city’s 900 residents are over the age of 65, according to the latest American Community Survey.
Opus representatives have said that all development possibilities were looked at for the property. They said there was no interest in retail and that the demand-driven interest was residential.
Mayor Warren Peterson said in an interview last week that redevelopment of the property is overdue. He said that in addition to pandemic-related issues, it has taken time for Opus to negotiate with Thompson Lightning Protection for a property easement the developer needs from the business in order to build a shared turnaround. In turn, Opus will bring sewer and water up to the business, which currently has a well and septic system.
Peterson said redevelopment of the bar and strip mall property to senior housing “would be an asset to the community.”
“It’s in disrepair and is an eyesore and it has to get developed,” he said. “And this is the highest and best use, in my opinion.”
The city twice has used TIF financing to help developers redevelop blighted properties. In 1999, Stonebridge of Lilydale, a 28-acre commercial, retail and condo development, was built on a former gravel pit and cement rubble dump. In 2011, luxury apartments and senior housing went up on the former Lilydale Tennis and Health Club site.