Strib story on Mendota Homes, The Crossing, and the NDDC

At 10:45 am today, the StarTribune published this story on their website, to be in tomorrow’s South Section:

Snags delay development of ‘gateway’ to downtown Northfield By Sarah Lemagie
A change in plans, a slower housing market and other complications have delayed plans for artists’ housing, condos and commercial developments.

…the ongoing cooldown in the housing market, particularly for condos, has prompted Mendota Homes to consider new alternatives for the second residential building. The developer had considered putting in a hotel instead of condos, but that idea “is off the table,” said Erin Mathern, development director with Mendota Homes. “I think that luxury rental is probably at the top of our list for that second building,” she said.

For the NDDC, not having land may mean a significant setback for the $6.5 million artists’ building envisioned at the southeast corner of the intersection. Without a site, the group can’t apply for aid that would allow private investors to help pay for construction in return for tax credits. The state’s application deadline for the program is June 19.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Luxury rental might be at the top of the MH list for the second residential unit but I’ve heard rumors that they don’t want to build parking underground for it. Which means parking has either go A) on the first and second floors, or B) in surface lots where office/retail condos are supposed to be built; or C) across the street where the Byzantine was and the NDDC’s Building for Creative Professionals was supposed to be built.

    If parking is constructed on the 1st and 2nd floors of the residential unit, that means there are only 2 floors for residential units. And that means those units would have to be pretty small. 65 or so units is the number I’ve heard. And that makes it seem highly unlikely that MH could market those as luxury units.

    I’m not necessarily opposed to residential rental for that second building. I’m not yet sure how I feel about student housing there, another rumor that’s floating around. But I’m definitely worried about the parking.

    May 22, 2007
  2. John S. Thomas said:

    I am just curious if the StarTRIB verified the MNDOT piece about the properties being released, or took the reason at face value from Mendota Homes.

    I would really like to see some confirmation of this.

    Also, I’m wondering why you would plow into such a large scale project, without a complete plan. It just seems that all activity has stopped over there. It is very quiet.

    At least they could do is continue to work on the landscaping, and begin work on Riverwalk component.

    A nice “Hey Northfield, here is what’s going on” type press release would be good. There just seems to be a negative buzz starting up, and hopefully they can catch it early enough to get some positive spin on it.

    I am also concerned about some of the “negative draws” mentioned in the article that the NDDC has proposed. Housing for Homeless or the Chemical dependant downtown? Not that I am against it, but that seems very counter productive to Downtown development.

    A good example is the Dourthy Day Center in St. Paul. This does some positive things for the community, but it also has some very negative draws for St. Paul. It would seem that this would be a better fit on the edge of downtown between the commerical and residential areas.

    A prime location would be to possibly purchase and renovate the apartment complex at Fourth and Union Streets, ensure that it is upgraded to code, and offer it in that manner.

    Just my $0.02. Thanks much!

    May 22, 2007
  3. Tyson Wigley said:

    I could be way off base on this, but I seem to remember in a conversation I had with Ray Cox that the underground parking (or maybe just the foundation) that was built for the first building had something to do with minimizing the noise that gets transfered from unit to unit.

    I know some of these condos that have gone up around here in the cities have a lot of ticked off owners after not being informed about the amount of noise pollution you can get from your neighbors if certain steps in the building process aren’t taken.

    May 22, 2007
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Tyson, I do remember that MH emphasized the construction soundproofing between floors but I don’t remember what was said about minimizing noise from the parking levels. If the parking levels are above ground, it might indeed make things noisier. I wonder if it’s common to have two floor of above ground parking in a residential unit?

    May 22, 2007
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    I sent this email today to Kristine Hernandez who is the MNDOT District 6 Public Affairs Coordinator


    Hi Kristine,

    Remember me?

    I’m trying to get to the bottom of the story on Mendota Homes and the MNDOT property on The Crossing development in Northfield.

    I blogged about the Nfld News article earlier this month:
    The Crossing: stymied, struggling, or spinning?

    I just blogged about the Star Tribune story in today’s paper:
    Strib story on Mendota Homes, The Crossing, and the NDDC

    Can you attach a comment to this blog post with a MNDOT explanation?

    Let me know if you’d prefer a phone conversation.


    Griff Wigley

    Co-host, Locally Grown

    May 23, 2007
  6. Kristine Hernandez said:


    Mn/DOT does still own the two small parcels of land that the city of Northfield would like to acquire and then sell to Mendota Homes.

    The first step to re-convey these two parcels of land was to get the final certificate for the Right of Way filed at the Rice County Courthouse. Typically, this takes 8-12 months to complete. Legally, Mn/DOT cannot sell a parcel of land until the final certificate is filed with the courts. This was completed on February 16, 2007. This was completed as per schedule. One of the parcels was a little on the longer timeline as the owners of Bill’s Pizza elected to go through Eminent Domain, which always slows down the process.

    The next step is to have a commercial appraiser (ideally an internal employee within Mn/DOT Right of Way section) conduct the appraisal on these parcels of land. The timeframe to get the appraisal done is between now through August of 2007. Currently, Mn/DOT District 6 does not have a commercial appraiser on staff, due to budget limitations.

    Finding an internal commercial appraiser in one of the other Mn/DOT districts would cut the appraisal cost by $2-3,000, which is taxpayer’s money, so we always look internally first. We did locate an appraiser internally to conduct the commercial appraisal, which is now scheduled to be completed within the next 30 days and we should receive it by the end of June.

    Typically, once the appraisal for the parcels is completed, Mn/DOT will contact the city of Northfield and present the offer, which will most likely be early July.

    In addition, Mn/DOT always prioritizes appraisals needed for construction projects over parcel re-sales to keep our projects on schedule. Acquiring land for our projects can be a lengthy, time consuming process that can cost tax payers millions in construction delays, so it is imperative that the Right of Way acquisitions for a project stay on schedule.

    May 23, 2007
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Thank you, Kristine. Much appreciated. MNDOT rocks!

    May 23, 2007
  8. Ross Currier said:

    John Thomas mentioned in his comments that the NDDC was proposing Housing for the Homeless or Chemically Dependent as part of the BCP concept. This is not the case.

    The NDDC is proposing Workforce Housing. The affordable units will be marketed to full-time workers earning between approximately $12 and $16 per hour. The market-rate units will be marketed to full-time workers earning between approximately $21 and $25 per hour. This range of incomes roughly matches the wages of the area’s workforce.

    The State puts a high priority on housing for the chronically homeless. That is why Mendota Homes was considering it for the BCP site. Housing for the chronically homeless is a piece of Supportive Housing, along with housing for people with Substance Abuse problems and Housing for the mentally ill. Northfield HRA Staff advocated for Supportive Housing during the NDDC’s request for financial support for the BCP. I think that may be where this latest rumor was born.

    Although the NDDC believes that Supportive Housing can be an important option, it is not part of our vision for the BCP. Our goals for the BCP are and have always been:

    1) Creating Housing for a Wide Range of Northfield’s Work Force
    2) Stimulating Economic Development through Retention and Recruitment of Small Businesses
    3) Maximizing the Local Return on Local Investment
    4) Creating a Gateway/Landmark for Downtown Northfield
    5) Building the most Sustainable Building that is Financial Feasible

    I hope this comment helps to bring clarity to this matter.

    Thanks much.

    May 23, 2007
  9. John S. Thomas said:

    I got it wrong. My apologies Ross. Here is the piece that I was referencing. Thanks for the clarification. I misread it.

    The two parties had already differed somewhat on aspects of the plan. The NDDC felt strongly about building workforce apartments, while Mendota Homes had suggested it might be easier to finance housing for chemically dependent or homeless people, he said. The NDDC’s priorities also included hiring locally for construction and making the building as environmentally friendly as possible.

    May 23, 2007

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