Low-income housing project proposed in downtown Brainerd: Rentals to replace old Thrifty White
If the project comes to fruition, tenants could move in as early as August 2023.
A proposed project by DW Jones would turn the property with the old Thrifty White building in downtown Brainerd into low-income, affordable tax-credit housing.
Skip and Andrew Duchesneau of DW Jones presented the plan Tuesday, July 6, to Brainerd City Council members, who approved a resolution supporting a future tax-increment financing district to fund the project.
Preliminary plans include 36 apartment units — three studios, six one-bedrooms, 18 two-bedrooms and nine three-bedrooms — along with eight units under the Section 8 housing voucher program and four high-priority homeless units overseen by Lutheran Social Services.
The current Thrifty White building at 805 Laurel St. would be demolished, and the new four-story building would have a 37-stall underground parking garage for tenants, first floor commercial space available for five businesses and three floors of housing. The new building would be larger than what stands now, extending into the parking lot but still leaving 33 surface stalls.
The 36 apartments will have income restrictions that range from 30%-60% of the area median income. Area median income is the midpoint of a region’s income distribution. For reference, 60% of the median income for a family of four in Crow Wing County is $44,700, Skip Duchesneau said, meaning a family of four would have to make that much or less. The amount of rent paid would depend on the tenant’s income at the time of move in, meaning the person can better themselves — get a second job, get a promotion, etc. — without having the rent increase. Proposed monthly rent prices, which would include underground parking, heat and hot water, are as follows: one-bedroom, $650-$720; two-bedroom, $780-$880; three-bedroom, $954. Tenants would also have use of a community room, complete with kitchen, couches, tables and an entertainment system; and a fitness room.
DW Jones has an application in to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency for housing tax credits to help with the cost of the project, which is estimated at about $12 million. The housing finance agency takes local contributions into account when considering applications for housing projects, meaning the creation of a tax-increment finance district on the part of the city would help to secure state funds.
Tax-increment financing, or TIF, is an economic development tool used to help businesses offset the costs of redeveloping a site. Instead of paying higher taxes immediately upon completion of a new building, a business instead will use those tax savings to cover the costs of demolition and new construction. Often, these agreements come tied with stipulations, such as a requirement to offer affordable housing.
The resolution the city council approved supports the use of a TIF district for the project in the future but did not authorize the creation of a TIF district at this time.
“This is just very exciting,” council member Gabe Johnson said during the personnel and finance committee meeting prior to Tuesday’s council meeting. “This would be the tallest building in downtown Brainerd and the biggest by square footage. And it would just be a really, really cool addition to Laurel Street, especially that block between Eighth and Ninth (streets). …I’m all on board with doing whatever we can to help this project move forward.”
The application to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency is due July 15, but Skip Duchesneau said he does not expect to hear back until December. If all goes as planned, DW Jones would close on the property in August or September 2022 and expect to welcome residents to the new building in August 2023.
About DW Jones
DW Jones has developed about 1,700 rental units in northern Minnesota. DW Jones Management manages about 120 buildings and 3,500 units throughout Minnesota, including several in the Brainerd/Baxter area — Marsh Run Townhomes, Valley View Townhomes, Trail Ridge Townhomes, Ridgeview I and II Apartments, Oak Crest Manor I and II Apartments, College Drive Townhomes and Excelsior Court Apartments.