DULUTH, Minn.--()--Community leaders and project partners joined today for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house to celebrate the opening of The Firehouse and Firehouse Flats, a new affordable-housing development in Duluth.
“Firehouse Flats is a beautiful community development that is an important element to the revitalization and redevelopment of Duluth”
The Firehouse and Firehouse Flats includes 40 apartments in three buildings – two historic buildings connected by a skyway and one three-story building with covered parking. The three buildings, designed to reflect the character of the historic buildings and the Hillside Neighborhood, include 28 two-bedroom, 8 one-bedroom and 4 three-bedroom apartments. The units will be available for family households earning between $20,000 and $39,000 per year. Rents will be affordable and competitive in the marketplace.
The apartment complex, close to jobs and public transportation, includes features such as open floor plans; large windows with views of Lake Superior; energy-efficient appliances including washer/dryer units; island kitchens with high-quality cabinets; and access to convenient off-street parking. Several units are designated for residents who have experienced chronic homelessness. Common amenities exclusively for residents include an urban-scaled courtyard between the two historic buildings, a community room and kitchen, fitness center and storage.
“Firehouse Flats is a beautiful community development that is an important element to the revitalization and redevelopment of Duluth,” said Mayor Don Ness, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony with City Councilmembers Sharla Gardner and Beth Larson, along with other community leaders and project partners. “We are appreciative to all the partners who made today a reality. Your hard work and efforts to turn a vision into what we see here today will help so many families in our community have a place they can call home.”
The project was developed by MetroPlains LLC, a Minnesota-based company with more than 35 years of affordable housing experience, in collaboration with the Central Hillside Community Revitalization Plan. Development partners included the city of Duluth, the Duluth Housing Redevelopment Authority, Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), Lumber One Avon, Dave Cecil Builders and JLG Architects. The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund provided $3.5 million for the project, and Minnesota Housing secured $1.4 million in financing. UnitedHealthcare, through a partnership with U.S. Bank, provided $7.1 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity to finance the majority of the project.
“Today’s celebration is the culmination of many years of hard work and planning,” said Rob McCready, co-president of MetroPlains. “We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from so many in the community whose passion and teamwork helped produce this historic renovation of the firehouse into these newly constructed apartments.”
Pam Kramer, LISC executive director, said: “We are appreciative of all the partners who have been involved in this important addition to our community. These high-quality apartments not only will provide much needed affordable homes to many families, but also enhance the aesthetics and quality of life in the Hillside neighborhood.”
The $7.1 million in LIHTC equity provided by UnitedHealthcare brings together one of the nation’s top health and well-being companies and one of the nation’s leading banks to provide innovative financing solutions for community development projects. UnitedHealthcare, through its Affordable Housing Investment Program, has provided more than $100 million in financing for community development projects throughout the United States, $35 million of which is in partnership with U.S. Bank.
“UnitedHealthcare is grateful to have worked together with U.S. Bank to provide the $7.1 million in equity to finance this important community development project,” said John Miklausich, site director for UnitedHealthcare offices in Duluth, which employs more than 1,400 people. “This project is an example of many partners coming together to help enhance our city and access to affordable housing.”
“Our shared commitment to affordable, quality housing is increasing housing options available for underserved individuals and families,” added Jerilynn Young, project manager for Affordable Housing Tax Credit Investments, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a subsidiary of U.S. Bank. “This is a wonderful addition to the community of Duluth and will help ensure that more people, regardless of income, have a place to call home.”
Development of The Firehouse and Firehouse Flats began in 2007 with a vision of creating a mixed-use multifamily housing development on the site. In 2007, the Hillside Neighborhood Group, LISC, city staff, Neighborhood Housing Services (a local housing nonprofit) and LHB Architects produced the Central Hillside Community Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.
The neighborhood plan followed a larger city planning process called the East Downtown, Hillside Waterfront Charrette in 2005 by the University of Miami Knight Community Building Program. This plan was also part of the At Home in Duluth Sustainable Communities Initiative, led by LISC, which is a collaboration of 24 organizations including the city of Duluth. The plan identified this block due to its location adjacent to the community center and recent investments in the immediate area.