After 10 years and three failed attempts by developers, the City of Plymouth is purchasing the Four Seasons Mall site off Highway 169 and Rockford Road.
After a closed session May 11, the Plymouth City Council reconvened and unanimously passed a resolution to purchase the 17-acre site for $6.7 million.
In November 2019, the council approved a mixed-use development for Dominium to construct more than 400 units of affordable and senior housing, along with four commercial buildings and a park-and-ride facility.
Mayor Jeff Wosje said it was “disappointing” to lose that affordable housing project, but that the council “has come to the realization that it’s is just not going to be able to compete for those for those finances the way the rules are set up today,” which is why the council is moving forward with the purchase.
Wosje explained that with the current housing finance guidelines, Dominium was unable to compete with other affordable housing projects across the Twin Cities that have lower area median income requirements than the 60% proposed for this project.
“The math just doesn’t work to try and get to that 30-40% of median income,” he said.
While Dominium had been first on the priority list to receive housing revenue bonds from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, it was later bumped by other projects that met higher funding priorities existing multi-family affordable housing preservation projects within the inner ring suburbs took precedent, which serve a lower area median income, explained Plymouth City Manager Dave Callister.
Although the City is supportive of affordable housing, Callister said, the current methodology used to allocate state housing revenue bonds does not allow for these types of affordable projects to be constructed in Plymouth.
“Going forward, we would advocate for a geographic component in the criteria so that all areas of the state would have access to funding for much needed affordable housing projects,” he said.
The city will use transit funds to acquire the site because a transit-oriented development is anticipated, Wosje noted.
The resolution assigns the rights of the purchase agreement between Dominium and Walmart, the current owner, to the city, with a closing date before July 1.
It was also noted there was an urgency to make the June 30 deadline for the property to be tax-exempt and avoid the estimated $260,000 in property taxes.
The city plans to demolish the building and solicit proposals for future redevelopment of the site.
Councilmember Jim Prom, who represents Ward 4, where the site is located, said this purchase was an “exception to the rule,” stating the city has made every attempt over the last 10 years for the private sector to develop this property.
“It has gone way, way beyond what the private sector has been able to do, so the City of Plymouth will take its time and find some developers to develop the property,” Prom said. “It’s not our intention to develop the property ourselves, however, after we purchase the property, it is our intention to tear that building down.”
The decision to purchase the property comes 11 years after the Four Seasons Mall site was sold to Walmart for $10.6 million in 2010.
Finding resistance from both residents and city officials, the big-box retailer chose not to build on the property, and in January 2012, company officials decided to sell the property.
Fives years later, the council approved the Agora project, a mixed-use development that included two hotels and a senior housing building, which failed in 2018 due to a lack of funding.
With a goal to have the building demolished by the end of the year, Callister said he’s excited to see something happen on the site, but also added that projects take time. He anticipates the transit-oriented development being a mix of housing – whether affordable or market-rate – as well as commercial development.
“I know the neighbors have been very patient over the last 11 years,” he said. “We’re going to do it right. Site control means everything to us in this case.”
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