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St. Paul mayor vetoes council's denial of $57M apartment complex

The project has raised affordable housing and gentrification concerns, but the mayor says all types of housing are needed in St. Paul.

The St. Paul City Council recently voted against a $57 million housing development project, and in a rare move Mayor Melvin Carter has vetoed the decision. 

The proposed 288-unit development, located in a vacant lot at Lexington Parkway and University Avenue near the Green Line in Frogtown by developer Alatus, raised concerns about affordable housing and gentrification in the area, the Pioneer Press said

But Mayor Carter in a letter to the City Council said the city needs more housing and the Alatus project should move forward. 

Carter in the letter said the City Council's 4-3 vote to deny the development application, which affirmed a prior Planning Commission decision, "runs contrary" to the goals of property and affordable housing, adding the decision "stands to create significant challenges to future housing and economic development" in St. Paul. 

Alatus' proposal had half the units in the building being priced at rents that would be affordable to people earning up to 60% of the area median income. However, critics said that is still too expensive for the average household in the area.

Carter stressed that while St. Paul does need more affordable housing, it also needs additional housing units on all income levels, which this project would help provide. 

"We need more market-rate units to sustain our growth and minimize the push-down effect — where higher-income renters who cannot find market-rate housing end up occupying much-needed affordable housing," Carter wrote.

Carter's veto effectively allows the project to move forward, and Alatus plans to do just that.

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Chris Osmundson, a development director with the Minneapolis-based company, told the Pioneer Press, "We fully intend to move forward with the project and expect to close on the land and construction financing in the near future."

The Wilder Foundation owns the property where Alatus hopes to build the complex. The foundation has said that it's reviewing the decision and would release more information soon.

While some housing advocates have cheered the mayor's veto, not everyone is happy about it. 

Midway Rise Up, a group dedicated to preventing displacement in the area, released a statement on Facebook Thursday, saying Carter has "no power or authority regarding land use appeals" and said his veto of the City Council's denial of the project has "no effect on the Council's" decision. 

In a post earlier in the day, the group called it a "horrible project" and said they have to continue their fight against gentrifiers, including the mayor himself. 

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