A St. Paul developer hopes to break ground by next spring on a 60- to 70-unit market-rate senior housing complex at the former Hermes Garden Center site on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights. But first, zoning changes at the site must be approved by the city to allow increased density, change parking requirements and change the site from affordable housing to senior housing.
A public hearing on the proposed zoning changes will be held Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at Falcon Heights City Hall, 2077 W. Larpenteur Ave., during the regular Planning Commission meeting. If the commission approves the changes, they will go to the city council for final approval. And if the city council approves the changes and the developer’s site plan, Kelly Brothers, Ltd., will build a four-story independent-living complex that will include a multipurpose community room, a wellness room, library, beauty salon, underground parking, common green space with raised planting beds and an expansive back porch on the southern end of the building that would overlook the University of Minnesota farm fields.
“We designed the L-shaped building to take advantage of views south and west,” said Peter Austin, director of finance at Kelly Brothers and a resident of St. Anthony Park.
When the Pohlad Family Foundation bought the 3.4-acre Hermes site four years ago, a “healthy-living campus” was envisioned that included an urban farm and organic food distribution center, as well as a 47-unit affordablehousing project that was to be managed by Common Bond Communities of St. Paul. The former came to fruition: the Good Acre, a hub that offers warehouse space to immigrant and low-income farmers, cooking classes and serves as a CSA (stands for Community-Supported Agriculture) that offers weekly shares of organic vegetables during the summer and fall. Common Bond Communities of St. Paul had planned to develop and manage the housing project, but did not receive the funding.
Now, Kelly Brothers is in contract with the Pohlad Foundation to explore developing that piece of land, Austin said. “We are working our way through the site plan approval process with the city.”
The group has developed three similar housing projects: Westview Apartments in Forest Lake, Ashwood Apartments in North Branch and Highlands at River Road, a 69-unit complex that opened in 2016 in Highland Park. The company is considering calling the Falcon Heights project the Hendrickson, named after W. Hendrickson, one of the early settlers of the area. Hendrickson’s 112-acre farm was in the southwest corner of Larpenteur and Snelling avenues.
The site is a good location for senior housing, Austin said. There are two strong block nurse programs nearby: Saint Anthony Park Area Seniors and the Como Falcon Heights Block Nurse Program. A bus stop for Route 61 is right at the site and will take riders to both downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. It’s close to the new Bell Museum and Planetarium and Gibbs Farm, which could offer volunteer opportunities, something many seniors are looking for, Austin said.
And it would be right next door to the Good Acre. Austin would like to see a partnership between the Good Acre and the Hendrickson that involves food, of course.