BY Paul Groessel
Sun POST Newspapers
An important, figurative stake has been planted in the chosen grounds for a homeless youth shelter in Brooklyn Park.
The Brooklyn Park Economic Development Authority, comprised of city council members and the mayor, approved the new construction on a city-owned lot on 76th Avenue North.
The 1.4 acre property is located on the block east of West Broadway Avenue, between U.S. Bank and Morrie’s Mazda.
As part of its agreement with Avenues for Homeless Youth, which operates a shelter in north Minneapolis, the city will build a 5,000-square-foot, home-like shelter with 10-12 beds.
The preliminary, approved budget was $950,000 for the construction project, paid for through a Tax Increment Financing district that is designated for affordable housing. Expenses would not come out of the city’s tax-supported general fund, according to city plans.
In January, the city agreed to rehabilitate an existing property after market analysis and talking with Avenues for Homeless Youth. The EDA agreed that new construction would fit Avenue’s needs better than a reconstructed building.
During EDA discussions, there has not been disagreement about the need for a shelter, but where it would be located.
When the 76th Avenue location was discussed during a mid-April meeting, a representative from Morrie’s and a neighbor of the property addressed safety concerns for the neighborhood and the youth staying at the shelter.
EDA commissioners addressed those concerns and recognized concerns from other neighbors who had attended a meeting about the shelter.
Anderson returned for the April 28 meeting and thanked the city for beginning to address the problems he brought up during the previous meeting. Those issues included the condition of the city-owned property and police presence in the area.
“I at least want to thank you for listening, and I do appreciate that,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Trepanier, and others, said the condition of the 76th Avenue property did not live up to the same expectation that the city expects from its residents’ own yards.
“The city has not met the standard it expects of others,” he said.
Further complicating the 76th Avenue prospect was a 1995 parkland or green-space dedication from U.S. Bank. It took two meetings to sort out if U.S. Bank had included parkland or green space dedicated for a portion of 76th Avenue property as part of a development agreement with the city.
Commissioners John Jordan and Bob Mata said meeting minutes and conditional use permits from 1995 show that a portion of the property was dedicated as parkland, which meant building the shelter would mean the city was going back on its promise.
“As I’ve previously stated and have voted for twice, I support the shelter,” Jordan said. “But I also support the residents of our community who were given assurances. … Now we’re about to tell them our word as a city has an expiration date.”
The alternative was a half-acre property on Regent Avenue North. Community Development Director Kim Berggren said the smaller site would need further site analysis, provided less convenient access to transit and was in an area with a higher rate of crime, according to her presentation to the EDA.
Jordan made a motion to approve construction on the Regent Avenue location, but Mata was the only other supporter, so the motion failed 2-5.
Other EDA members struggled with keeping a 1990s promise versus opening the first youth homeless shelter in the area, by December, on what they considered the best of two locations.
Mayor Jeffrey Lunde, acting as EDA president, said that he considered the shelter to be an enhancement for the 76th Avenue Area, and he did not want this shelter project to be sidelined like it had been in previous attempts to establish a shelter.
“I could handle it on either property,” Lunde said. “I do think the 76th site is better. I do think it offers a better transportation network. I do think that it will help be a stabilizing factor in that neighborhood. In fact, I’m very confident of that because we’re going to have people there with a reason to be there.”
After the motion to approve the Regent Avenue site failed, a motion to approve the 76th Avenue North location was approved 5-2, with commissioners Mata and Jordan voting against it.
Contact Paul Groessel at [email protected] or follow the Sun Post on Twitter @ECMSunPost.