Construction will start next month on a 300-unit mixed-use, multi-housing project in the north quadrant area of downtown St. Paul, including downtown’s first new owner-occupied housing in 15 years. The $50-to-$60-million project, which is being built in two phases by Minneapolis-based Sherman & Associates, will consist of 70 condominium units and 230 apartment units, according to Brian Sweeney, the city’s planning and economic development director.

The condo project, called The Essex on the Park, will offer units ranging from 750 to 2,400 sf for from $120,000 to $350,000. Along with it, two rental apartment buildings called Sibley Court Apartments will offer a total of 230 units ranging from 700 to 2,000 sf. About 80 percent of the apartment units will go for market rate rents. The remaining will be “affordable housing” for those earning up to $35,000.

The first phase of the long-awaited North Quadrant development project, near East Seventh Street adjacent to the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul, will consist of 38 condo units and 114-unit apartments units. The project, the first of three “urban villages” planned for the downtown St. Paul area, will also include 12,000-sf of retail space along East 7thStreet as well as a small park.

The villages are part of the city’s longtime vision of a vital downtown where people work, live and play. The second village is planned for the Upper Landing, on the west end of downtown by the Mississippi River. The third encompasses the West Side Flats area, where U.S. Bancorp is planning to open a $50 million service center and office building that community leaders and city officials hope will spur new housing and related developments.

Sweeney expects the Essex/Sibley project to have as much impact on the growth and development of downtown as the recent major projects of Lawson Commons and Xcel Energy Center, the city’s new hockey arena. The first phase will cost about $26 million, including $17 million for the rental units. The rental portion will receive $2.35 million in public assistance – a $1.35 million grant arranged by the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, and from the city, a $250,000 grant and a $750,000 loan.

The city also is spending $1 million to develop the park. The first-phase condominiums will cost about $9 million, with the city providing $1 million in tax-increment financing. The Metropolitan Council and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency will provide a $900,000 grant.

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