By Scott Carlson
Opinion: Back to square one?
A real estate and construction firm’s plans to redevelop a 15.5-acre site on the lower campus of Luther Seminary appear to have hit a dead end.
And that might be OK.
The real estate firm, Master Properties Minnesota, has suffered numerous delays in proceeding with its project that it first put on the table in mid-2019. Its ambitious proposal had called for building up to 450 to 500 units of new housing while preserving the campus’s 10-acre Breck Woods natural open space. (The proposal included senior co-op housing, assisted living units, market-rate family units)
But last year, Master Properties’ development plans hit a snag during the COVID-19 environment, forcing it to seek an extension of project timelines on numerous occasions from the Seminary.
Master Properties said in December that it was seeking a replacement partner for the United Properties’ assisted living component of the project that United had put on hold.
But now, contacted by the Bugle on Feb.10, Master Properties President Max Heitzmann said, “We are not in a position to move forward at this time” with the full project.
One key fact: Master Properties’ purchase agreement with the Seminary has lapsed.
“We are not in active negotiations with Master (Properties) currently,” said Gita Sitaramiah, spokeswoman for Luther Seminary. As a result, the religious institution is free to engage in talks with other developers about the campus redevelopment.
“Developers are showing interest and we are having some promising conversations,” said Sitaramiah, who did not further elaborate.
In the final analysis, this turn of events may be OK. While there were pluses to Master Properties’ proposal, including its pledge to preserve Breck Woods, their plans had some drawbacks.
No matter how well designed the mixed-use housing project is, the large-scale development proposal seemed to me to be incongruous with the immediate neighborhood of mostly stately, single-family homes.
Perhaps other developers will offer plans that better fit the historic nature of Luther Seminary and the neighborhood.
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