Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Longfellow Station/Purina Site CBA

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The Longfellow Community Council (LCC) and developer Capital Growth Real Estate entered into a CBA in February, 2008. The deal involves the abandoned Purina Mills site in Minneapolis, which will be cleaned up and redeveloped as a mixed use complex called Longfellow Station.

The abandoned Purina Mill site. Photo MPR Photo/Dan Olson via MPR News.

Longfellow Station will have 197 housing units, and 10,000 square feet of retail space (decreased from 40,000 square feet due to economic considerations). It's also intended to be a model of sustainable, transit oriented development. It will have green roofs and an onsite storm water retention system, and personal automobile use will be discourage by limiting parking and providing abundant pedestrian and bicycle amenities. It's also located next to the Hiawatha light rail line, so residents, employees and visitors will have easy access to transit.

An architectural rendering from UrbanWorks Architecture.

The Longfellow Station/Purina Site CBA

Transit Oriented Development

The Longfellow CBA is notable for its focus on sustainable and transit oriented development (TOD). The CBA lists ten TOD principles to guide the project (pp. 5-6):
  1. urban intensity
  2. height, density, and public/green space
  3. economic vitality
  4. urban form
  5. urban uses
  6. retail location
  7. reverse the normal parking rules
  8. walkability
  9. transit connectivity
  10. neighborhood connectivity
In order to promote alternative transportation, the CBA requires the developer to provide free one-month transit passes to residential tenants and to ensure that transit fare can be purchased onsite (p. 14). The development must also include bicycle storage and parking facilities (p. 14), and dedicated parking spaces for zip cars (p. 15). Additionally, the development will have limited amounts of parking for personal automobiles, and parking spaces will be leased separately from residential units, giving tenants good reasons not to drive (pp. 14-15).

Walking and bicycle paths are required, as are traffic calming infrastructure improvements to protect pedestrians and bicyclists (p. 15). The paths are to be complemented by landscaped public gathering spaces (pp. 16-17). Longfellow Station must also incorporate a number of walkability and placemaking principles, such as designing the project at a human scale, using urban rather than suburban architecture, limiting blank walls, using high quality exterior building materials, and screening loading docks and trash areas (pp. 18-19).

Sustainable Development

In addition to the project's focus on alternative transportation, which helps to reduce emissions, Longfellow Station must also obtain green building certification, either under LEED or a similar Minnesota rating system (p. 8). Any landscaping installed for purposes of certification must be maintained for 30 years (p. 11).

The development also promotes sustainability because of its location on a brownfield site. Because the property likely suffers from environmental contamination, the LCC must be notified of hazardous substances discovered onsite during construction (p. 9).

Affordable Housing

The CBA requires at least 30% of the Longfellow Station housing units to be affordable, exceeding the city's 20% requirement (p. 7). A mix of unit sizes is to be provided, with family size units having access to green space (p. 7).

Contracting and Employment

Regarding wage and hiring policies, the CBA requires the developer to comply with the city's policies on prevailing wages, living wages, MWBE contracting, apprenticeship training and accessibility (p. 11). (These policies are located in the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances and typically apply only to city projects.) The developer must also use "every reasonable effort" to rent to commercial tenants that pay a living wage (pp. 11-12).

Small and Local Business Development

When recruiting business tenants, the CBA directs the developer to give a preference to small grocery stores, retail, healthcare, restaurants and cafes, small hotels, entertainment venues, offices, and light manufacturing. Local and regional businesses (especially small and "unique" ones) are to be given priority over national chains (p. 12). In any case, national chains may not occupy more than 70% of the commercial space in the development (p. 13), and at least 10% must be reserved for "community based small businesses" (p. 13). Big box retailers are specifically listed as undesirable businesses, and to prevent their establishment the CBA includes a commercial size cap of 30,000 square feet (pp. 12-13).

Community Amenities

In addition to the walking paths and public outdoor spaces required by the CBA, space must also be provided within the development for public art and displays relating to the history of the Longfellow neighborhood (p. 17). The CBA also requires the developer to reserve space for community meetings (to be free for the LCC), and to set aside at least 500 square feet for nonprofit community-serving organizations (to be rented at below market rate) (p. 17).


As of June, 2009, the Longfellow Station project was moving forward, but set back by the poor economy. The retail space had to be cut from 40,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet in order for the developer to obtain financing, and some of the affordable units had to be cut. Given that the CBA requires 30% of the units to be affordable, it's unclear whether the agreement will need to be amended.

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