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Collaborating to make Seward Commons a reality

Seward Redesign, a neighborhood nonprofit developer, is taking steps to make "phase two" of its proposed Seward Commons a reality at the industrial four-acre site that was formerly home to the Bystrom Brothers machine shop, between Minnehaha and Cedar avenues south on 22nd Street in Minneapolis.

Seward Commons, which has long been in planning stages, is a sustainable transit-oriented housing development, according to project information. The development process has been divided into a couple of phases that separately deal with housing for the "persistent mentally ill" and seniors.   

"Phase two" specifically relates to 60 units of senior housing in the complex, which Seward Redesign associate director Katya Piling says is in high demand from the area's aging population. "People love the neighborhood and want to stay here," she says.

To make it happen, Seward Redesign is considering the possibility of teaming up with CommonBond Communities, another local nonprofit developer that already has a presence in the neighborhood at the Seward Towers. The possibility will be presented at a Seward Neighborhood Group committee meeting on April 12.  

The details of such a collaboration need to be worked out to meet the requirements of a Housing and Urban Development funding application, for which the deadline is coming up, she says.

For the 40 units of supportive housing, plus administrative offices, dining, and health and wellness facilities that are a part of "phase one," the group's partner is Touchstone Mental Health.

Seward Redesign acquired the land, which has nine buildings on the premises, in June 2009. Since the beginning, the community has been looped into the master-planning effort, which goes back even before then.  

Ultimately, Seward Redesign wants to transform the off-the-beaten-path industrial area into a lively link to the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. Already the group has taken pains to open up access to pedestrians along a trail near the line, which means people don't have to cross busy, four-lane Cedar Avenue to get to the Franklin Street LRT Station.

In the future, Seward Redesign hopes to create a well-lit path that "provides a more direct, flat way to reach the station," Piling says.  

The group has put a lot of thought into environmental issues. On the site, Seward Redesign plans to implement cutting-edge stormwater-management practices. Already, the existing parking lot has become an urban farm, which could be expanded to the development's rooftop. "We want to integrate agriculture into the development in the long-term," she says.   

Source: Katya Pilling, Associate Director, Seward Redesign     
Writer: Anna Pratt

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