Last week, residents began moving into Oxford Village on Blake Road in Hopkins, a new 51-unit, affordable apartment building.

So far, 10 families or individuals have moved into their new home, but Oxford Village was in high demand before it opened in late November. Approximately 200 applications were submitted. Before the application process even opened, there were 450 inquiries on the “interest list.”

“Truth be told, we could’ve rented twice as many,” said Matt Soucek, a senior project manager for nonprofit developer Projects for Pride in Living.

The units, which range from studios to three-bedrooms, rent for $600 to $995 per month. Six units—three studios and three one-bedrooms—are designated specifically for the long-term homeless.

To qualify to live in the building, residents can make up to 60 percent of the area median income, which is approximately $42,000 annually for a family of four.

Oxford Village, which is just south of Highway 7 and within walking distance from the Knollwood Mall area, is centrally located to employment opportunities and public transit. It is one-quarter mile to Metro Transit bus stops and less than half a mile from a proposed Southwest Light Rail station.

Amenities include underground and surface parking, laundry rooms on each floor, bike storage, controlled access entry and a community room with a kitchen.

“The building doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s really about the location,” said Soucek. “Efficiency is exactly what we’re after.”

He said bus schedules, and eventually light rail schedules, will be posted on a bulletin board near the mailboxes. But if the proposed light rail doesn’t end up getting approved, Soucek isn’t worried.

“The train isn’t make-or-break for us. It would a bonus for residents, but the location has a lot to offer regardless,” he said.

Beyond transit options, Oxford Village is adjacent to the newly redeveloped Cottageville Park and Minnehaha Creek, which is visible in apartments with windows facing south. Eight units have balconies that face the park and creek.

There will also be opportunities for residents within the walls of Oxford Village. ResourceWest, a nonprofit community agency based in Hopkins, will have a satellite location in the community room and offer services at no cost. While the organization has many partnerships, this will be the first time it has a consistent presence in a residential apartment complex.

“The room is dual purpose, but the bulk of it will be used for programming,” Soucek said. The room, which is set up similar to a classroom and will have a whiteboard, will double as a learning space for instruction on “life skills.”

Tarrah Palm, executive director of ResourceWest, said that the organization will listen to what the residents need and base their services on those needs. The organization helps people navigate transportation, childcare, education, employment, homework help and more topics.

ResourceWest’s services will not be limited to the residents. Nearby individuals who find it more convenient to get to this location, rather than the main office on the other side of town, are welcome to stop by.

“That community room really can be open to the whole community,” said Palm. She said she hopes Oxford Village becomes not only a building, but also a neighborhood.

While ResourceWest will be the main service provider, Projects for Pride in Living will offer extra support for formerly homeless residents who have little to no income.

“What we hope and strive for is that income rises as housing stabilizes,” said Soucek.

The integration model, in which formerly homeless individuals live in a supportive environment among workforce families, has been “enormously successful” in Project for Pride in Living’s other locations, according to Soucek.

In addition to central location and supportive services, Oxford Village also aims to boost residents with its aesthetics. Each design element was thoughtfully selected by the architect to foster a positive environment. For example, bright blue- and yellow-colored walls aim to create a “bright and cheerful” atmosphere.

The architect also made a conscious effort to blend each side of the building in with the existing neighborhood or corridor it faces. For example, the side facing Oxford Street has walk-out apartments and a brick exterior to soften the view for the duplexes across the street.

“There is a different approach taken to each frontage,” said Soucek. “Our hope is when people look at it, it doesn’t scream ‘affordable.’”

The project cost approximately $15 million. Funding came from Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Wells Fargo, Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Brownfields, which promotes efficient cleanup and reuse of contaminated land. The six units for the formerly homeless will be subsidized through Group Residential Housing funds from the county.

The city will continue to welcome affordable housing developments.

Hopkins Mayor Molly Cummings said, “We look forward to additional partnerships with government entities, nonprofits and the private sector to find additional ways to preserve what we have and add additional housing options so that everyone has access to stable, safe affordable housing.”

Contact Sabina Badola at sabina.badola@ecm-inc.com.

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