The Cambridge City Council approved an affordable housing proposal for a project that will be located on Old Main Street South at its meeting held Monday, Nov. 7.
The 65-unit development will be built on 3 acres just north of Cambridge Christian School and south of the existing town homes in Maple Ridge.
In an “affordable housing” project, a property owner sets aside a certain number of units for renters that are at a certain percentage below the area median income (AMI). For example, if the AMI is $70,000 for an individual, setting aside units for those at 60% AMI means the renter cannot have an income above $42,000.
This project has 14 units set aside for individuals at 30% AMI, 33 units for those at 50% AMI, and 18 units for those at 60% AMI. Council originally discussed the project at its Oct. 19 meeting but tabled the project in order to give the developer, Cambridge Housing Limited Partnership, a chance to determine the feasibility of including garages with the project.
The partnership is being led by Reuter Walton, a real estate firm based in St. Louis Park. Paul Keenan, the vice president of development for the company, explained that adding garages would significantly – and negatively – affect the project.
“We ran models for nine garages, 18 garages, 32 and 65,” Keenan said. “We would be able to maintain the 147 required [parking] spaces in each of these scenarios. But the parking spaces are quite expensive: They are roughly $25,000 per garage to build. The additional cost to the project would be from $225,000 for the nine [garages] up to $1.6 million for the 65 garages.
“We’re affordable housing, so we don’t have a ton of cash flow or economic ability to take on that kind of cost.”
As a result, Keenan presented a list of different elements that would be removed from the apartments to rebalance costs, including removing washers and dryers from individual units, removing ceiling fans in bedrooms, removing the sound mat from the carpets, using a lower quality window, and removing walk-in closets.
“We would have to reduce the square footage of the building [to accommodate garages],” said Keenan, who noted that raising the rents was not possible because of the project’s status as affordable housing. “For lack of a better term, we’d have to ‘dumb it down’ and build less.”
When Council Member Bob Shogren asked if the cuts would affect the project’s ability to make a profit and keep the project alive, Keenan said: “I don’t think so. You still have to rent the units, and we’re cutting out things that will help us rent the units.
“We’re cutting back, and we’re still expecting to get the same rent. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Council Member Kersten Barfknecht-Conley, who was not at the Oct. 17 meeting that resulted in a 2-2 stalemate on the project moving forward without garages, expressed support for the project as it stood.
“I would not want to see the construction get ‘dumbed down,’” she said. “To have to go low-quality on everything … I don’t want to go that route. I don’t want to see changes in the amenities for garages.”
Council Member Mark Ziebarth then presented a different concern: traffic flow of that area, and the affects it would have on area streets.
“For me, the whole traffic [situation], based on having been there and looked at it, I have some questions about it,” Ziebarth said. “It creates some long-term hassles in the future that will force us to spend resources we did not anticipate.”
City Engineer Todd Blank did not feel there would be issues with Old Main Street.
“We have other streets like that which can handle 2,000-3,000 cars a day,” Blank said. “I don’t have a volume for you, but I would say there would be, at the most, 500-700 cars a day. I don’t see that being an issue.”
From there, council expressed an interest in extending the street immediately north of the project. Eventually, as other housing projects are build, this new street would circle north and connect with 21st Avenue SW.
Shogren, who joined Council Member Lisa Iverson in opposing the project in October, said he would change his vote to see this new road get built out by the developer.
“I will compromise on this, because I’m still opposed to this project without garages,” he said. “If we can have the street go through, let the building go up without the garages but have the developer build the street.”
The project passed 3-2 with Mayor Jim Godfrey, Barfknecht-Conley and Shogren in favor.
Once it was approved, the preliminary plat for the project passed unanimously.
Then Nick Anhut, senior municipal advisor for Ehlers Public Finance Advisors, reviewed an application for tax increment financing to unlock funding for the project, which passed unanimously.