WORTHINGTON — A proposal to construct a new multi-family housing development will continue to be explored after a concept for the plan met with approval Wednesday from Worthington City Council members.
The plan would add at least 40 new housing units in the city, with the development located near the new movie theater in the vicinity of an extended Cecilee Street and Grand Avenue. There’s still plenty of work remaining before the project is finalized, but it’s hoped construction could begin as soon as September.
Dave Pokorney and Bob Roepke, representing Community Asset Development Group, attended Wednesday’s special council meeting, which was hosted via Zoom. The housing proposal was the only item on the agenda.
Pakorney explained that he and Roepke are retired from careers in local government and now want to help municipalities meet any needs they have.
“During the 35 years I spent in local government, in all of those years I never had a developer come and ask me ‘what does the city want?’’ Pakorney said. “We said that we were going to start by talking to towns and asking them what they need. Quite frankly, we heard housing, senior housing, senior housing and housing.”
Pakorney said his firm’s work has included the development of five senior assisted living projects, and work is currently underway on a market-rate housing development in St. Peter. That community project led to a sharper focus on multi-family housing, he added.
A plan for a 40-unit development would include a mixture of one- and two-bedroom units, Pakorney explained, as well as 20 garages and 60 surface parking stalls. The development would be three stories in height, and each unit would have its own balcony or patio.
“We haven’t fully engaged the architects on this yet,” he said. “We’re confident that we can get the 40 units on the site … and maybe even 46.”
Roepke said the site near the movie theater was one of the first looked at when first visiting with Worthington Assistant City Administrator Jason Brisson about a possible housing development.
“I think we were impressed with this site from the get-go,” Roepke said. “We’re interested to hear what your (council’s) reactions are to the concept at this point.”
One-bedroom units in the development are planned at between 800 and 825 square feet. Two bedrooms will be approximately 1,100 square feet, with some units available with two bathrooms and others with one. A pool wouldn’t be among the amenities, but an exercise room and small meeting room are planned along with an outside patio as well as Wi-Fi access.
Councilman Alan Oberloh said he was impressed with the look of the proposed development, while councilwoman Amy Ernst — who’s employed as District 518’s Technology Director — added that it was “huge” to have the Wi-Fi element included. Councilman Chad Cummings also expressed satisfaction with the plan as presented Wednesday, noting that lots planned as single-family housing along an expanded Cecilee Street would remain available for that purpose.
The units would likely offer a mixture of market rate and income-based housing. Community Asset Development Group would be responsible for development, but the complex would be managed by a third-party entity.
Pokorney listed community support, sale of the site land for $1 and creation of a pay-as-you-go tax increment financing district rebating back 90% of new taxes as necessary from the city to get the new housing built. In terms of a timeline, he asked the city to enter into a letter of understanding with Community Asset Development Group by May 15, and that the parties enter into a formal development agreement prior to July 30. That’s also the date by which concept plans should be formally submitted to the city for review and approval.
Pokorney also requested that final city site plan approvals be completed before Sept. 15, and a preliminary financing commitment for the project be obtained by Sept. 30. Council members then voted 4-0 (Larry Janssen had left the meeting by this point) to keep the project under consideration and moving forward.
“We thank you for your interest in Worthington,” Mayor Mike Kuhle said. Citing Pokorney’s and Roepke’s extensive experience in Minnesota municipal government, he added: “We know you’re not some high-level people from New York City or somewhere.”
“We’ve been working on trying to pencil out a project like this for a long time and I am optimistic we might be finally getting there,” Brisson said following Wednesday’s meeting.
“I believe these developers would like to work with the council to establish a relationship and a mutually beneficial partnership,” he continued. “I could see them potentially coming back for phase two of more housing or some other community asset — we’ve had some preliminary talks on this already — if this project goes well.”