Building homes in the Central Corridor

Light-rail planners say a housing renaissance is already afoot along the Central Corridor, about three years before the first trains begin to roll. More than 5,100 housing units are on the way or have been completed, the Metropolitan Council announced today.

That figure is a bit misleading, though. Included in that calculation are about 1,800 units that make up Riverside Plaza and The Cedars, two existing housing developments on the West Bank of Minneapolis that were part of a large-scale rehab.

The tally also includes “upcoming development projects” that are still in the design phase. One example is the long delayed Penfield grocery-and-housing project that has been on St. Paul’s drawing board for years.

Still, there are plenty of recent projects, from university student apartments to senior housing in St. Paul’s Frogtown, that make a formidable list when you lump them all together. The corridor encompasses both downtowns, the University of Minnesota and everything in between.

It’s not hard to see why developers are eyeing the land around the 11-mile stretch. Light-rail advocates have long seen the transit option as a tool to redevelop urban neighborhoods.

One example of new development is the Chittenden & Eastman building, which housed artist work space, near Raymond and University avenues. The former mattress warehouse and store is poised to reopen in October 2012 as 104 market-rate apartments.

“We would not be there trying to do something with that property had it not been for the light rail line,” said developer Jim Stolpestad of Exeter Realty, in a statement today. “University had to be redone.”

The question for many neighbors is how to reshape the corridor while preserving what makes it unique. Are you having conversations now in your communities on how to accomplish that?