Luther Seminary explores senior housing development

Luther Seminary is teaming up with nonprofit developer Ecumen to build a senior housing complex on the lower campus of the seminary’s 37-acre property.

Ecumen and the seminary signed a nonbinding letter of intent on July 29 to start work on the development, which could include a 50- to 60-unit owner-occupied senior housing co-op, a 121-unit apartment building that would include some assisted-living components and 20 percent affordable rates, and a 112-unit memory-care facility.

Spokespeople at both the seminary and Ecumen have declined to say what pieces of property are being considered for the proposed development.

Michael Morrow, the seminary’s vice president of finance and development, attended the District 12 Land Use Committee meeting Aug. 6 with representatives from Ecumen to explain the project.

Morrow said the development fits with the need for senior housing in St. Anthony Park, which was identified in the Como 2030 Plan.

Luther Seminary has been exploring redesign and redevelopment on the campus to meet the institution’s future needs, Morrow said. In 2012, the seminary reported a $4 million budget deficit. Since then, Luther has cut staff, sold the Sandgren and Burntvedt apartment buildings on Eustis Street, and has recently rented space to Augsburg College to house Augsburg’s physician assistant studies program. That will bring up to 60 students to the Luther campus each semester.

The campus needs to be refigured to meet the size of the current student body, Morrow said. The 600-student school has become less of a residential campus than in the past.

Ecumen, a 150-year-old nonprofit with roots in the Lutheran Church, once concentrated its work on nursing homes in rural Minnesota. In the last decade, the nonprofit has expanded its focus to senior housing outside of nursing homes.

Matt McNeill, Ecumen’s director of business development, said the company is focusing on urban walkable communities. He gives the example of Ecumen’s $110 million Abiitan Mill City project in downtown Minneapolis, which broke ground in May.

The five-story senior living project will have 151 rental units and include options for independent living and memory care. Residents will be in walking distance to the river, to the Guthrie Theater, Gold Medal Park, the Mill City Farmers Market, the light rail and the new Vikings stadium. It is scheduled to open in fall 2016.

The St. Anthony Park project would potentially have 293 living units on an unspecified area of land. Lyngblomsten, a senior living complex on Almond Avenue in Como Park, sits on 6 acres and includes a 105-unit HUDsubsidized low-income apartment building, a 60-unit market-rate building and a nursing home with 237 residents.

Representatives from Luther Seminary and Ecumen will attend the Oct. 1 District 12 Land Use Committee meeting to give updates on the project. The committee meets at 7 p.m. at South St. Anthony Recreation Center, 890 Cromwell Ave. All District 12 committee and board meetings are open to the public.

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