Edina City Council approves housing complex for homeless youth

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The Edina City Council approved a disputed plan for a new apartment complex for homeless and at-risk youth in the area.

Council members voted unanimously to approve the 66 West project at an old TCF Bank building near Southdale Center. The apartment complex would include 39 studio apartments, community areas, offices, a fitness room, computer lab and on-site laundry.

This came a few weeks after the Edina Planning Commission recommended the Edina City Council approve zoning changes and amend the comprehensive plan to support 66 West at its proposed location, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, which is spearheading the project, says on its website.

A final vote is needed at by the Planning Commission and City Council to "rubber stamp" the project, KSTP reports. Edina planning officials say it's "almost unheard of" for a project to get initial approval, but not get a final endorsement, the Star Tribune says.

Before Tuesday's vote, there was a public comment period in which 20 people spoke out in support of the project, while eight people spoke out against it, the newspaper says. Hundreds of supporters were also at the meeting to show their support.

Supporters urged the importance of addressing the issue of youth homelessness in the area, along with the city's need for affordable housing. Beacon Interfaith says providers who help homeless and at-risk youth serve between 200 and 300 young people in the western suburbs each year, but there are no shelter beds or permanent housing options dedicated to youths in the area.

Not only will 66 West's location serve people in need, but jobs are plentiful at the nearby mall and medical service businesses, which typically have many openings for entry-level positions, supporters say. The proposed location is also across the street from a major transit hub and nearby the library, government center and even the YMCA.

Opponents agree the project is a worthy cause, but don't believe 66 West belongs in Edina's medical district. Others have said they're concerned about their safety and the security of their property near the proposed complex, the Sun Current reports.

Once the $9 million project gets a final vote of approval, funding will need to be secured before construction begins, KSTP says. The Edina Community Lutheran Church has committed $80,000 to the project and other churches have shown support. Funding could also come from the state and county, federal low-income housing tax credits and rental assistance groups, the Star Tribune says.

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