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HJC challenges lack of affordable housing in region’s largest redevelopment plan
01.18.2019

The former Twin Cities Army Ammunition plant site (TCAAP), located in Arden Hills, is slated for redevelopment.  Following removal of all structures and environmental cleanup, this “blank slate” site is the size of all of downtown St. Paul—the largest redevelopment opportunity in the Region.  

After many years of on-again-off-again planning, there is now a plan.  A Joint Development Authority (JDA) has been created to oversee development, consisting of Ramsey County, which owns the site and the City of Arden Hills, which controls zoning and land use.  The JDA has hired a Master Developer, Alatus Company.  The plan calls for an ambitious multi-use, multi-phase development over the course of a decade, which would include residential, commercial, and public park spaces.  

There are, however, some serious differences of opinion.  While the plan calls for the creation of 1460 housing units, that works out to a net density of 3.4 units/acre.  That’s a density level much more in line with a spread out large lot single family development as opposed to the vision for Rice Creek Commons (the new name for TCAAP) of a walkable compact energy efficient community. Ramsey County has been seeking much higher residential development but the City has resisted.

Even worse, the City has resisted any meaningful affordable housing commitment.  The City is obligated under the Land Use Planning Act (MLUPA) to plan for its share of the local and regional need for affordable housing, which means 373 affordable units between 2021-2030.  Even though the TCAAP site is the only real opportunity for Arden Hills to fulfill its MLUPA obligation, the City has been unwilling to agree to more than 146 affordable units, and even for those, only at a level affordable to households at 80% AMI—not really affordable housing at all. 

Due to disagreements between the County and the City, negotiations on the final Master Development Plan are currently stalled.  However, the City’s comprehensive plan update is moving forward and will be reviewed soon by the Met Council.  That plan contains a very inadequate affordable housing plan for TCAAP, which HJC has pointed out to the City, the County, and the Met Council.  HJC will be watching closely to see how the Met Council responds to the Arden Hills housing element.