The city of Lauderdale is helping pave the way for Real Estate Equities (REE) to build at 114-unit senior housing complex on the old Lauderdale school site at 1795 Eustis St.
The city bought the property in May 2018 from a Chinese Christian church and now plans to resell it to REE, which proposes to demolish the former school building and then construct and manage a combination three- and four-story structure with underground parking for residents.
City officials stressed they took an unusual step in acquiring the property and feel some urgency about selling it. The reason: Lauderdale paid $1.3 million for the property, an amount similar to the city’s entire annual budget.
City officials ruled out leaving the block as green space, preferring to add it to the tax rolls in order to help offset rising property taxes in the city. So, they were determined to find a developer who would keep housing affordable and limit rental to seniors, i.e. people age 55 and older.
Should the Council proceed, a development agreement and rezoning of the property are expected before the end of this year. Construction would begin in 2020. The city also anticipates setting up a tax-increment district to assist in private financing of the project.
At a May 14 public hearing, Mayor Mary Gaasch said the long-term use for the former school building has been topic of much discussion for several years. “The number one thing that has come out is that people would like to see some place that seniors can age in place in our community other than in their homes, Gaasch said.
Lauderdale city planning consultant Jennifer Haskamp explained that denser development meets the goals of Lauderdale’s most recent comprehensive plan document, which is now under review at the Metropolitan Council. She said in order to secure private financing for such a project, and keep the prospective housing units affordable, a building of about four stories looked inevitable. “The reality is it’s going to be taller” than the old building now on the site, she said.
Residents, at the May 14 council meeting, raised concerns about the size of the project. Bev Powell, seemed to speak for many when she told the Council, “It’s too big for our little area.”
Powell also expressed concern about the loss of trees on the site. She cited ordinances in other cities that protect existing trees and suggested that Lauderdale consider such an ordinance.
Meanwhile, several other residents raised concerns about traffic; city officials countered that a traffic study concluded there would be little change in traffic given the senior status of prospective residents. City officials said they will continue to field public comments and concerns about the project as it moves forward.