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Military buildings at Fort Snelling to be turned into 190 affordable apartments

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The renovation of 26 military buildings at historic Fort Snelling will see the creation of 190 affordable rental apartments for low-income families.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday the state has given preliminary approval to the $100 million project at the Upper Post area of the famous former military fortification near the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

"Despite their prominent place in Minnesota history, these historic buildings have fallen into disrepair," Smith said, according to a DNR news release. "I am proud to support this renovation. It will restore an important part of Minnesota’s history, and transform these buildings to serve a new purpose: to improve the lives of hundreds of Minnesota families."

The state has backed a project put forward by Plymouth-based Dominium, which had previously redeveloped St. Paul's Schmidt Brewery into low-income housing and turned the Minneapolis Pillsbury A–Mill into artist lofts.

Construction to start in 2017

After gaining preliminary approval, Dominium will now negotiate terms with the DNR over the long-term lease of the property, which belongs to the state. The deal will need to approved by the Minnesota State Executive Council – which includes Gov. Mark Dayton.

But the company is confident a deal will be struck and that construction will start in 2017.

"Dominium is very excited to have the chance to preserve the historic Fort Snelling Upper Post while bringing much needed affordable workforce housing to the area," said Mark Moorhouse, senior vice president and partner at Dominium. "We have successfully transformed other Minnesota landmarks in the past, and we look forward to doing the same at the Upper Post."

The Digital Journal reports the project will be financed through a combination of low-income housing tax credits, and federal and state historic tax credits. It adds that it will meet a real need in the area, with only 34 affordable apartments in Hennepin and Ramsey counties for every 100 people making less than $20,000 a year.

According to the Business Journal, Dominium says it's the fifth-largest owner of affordable housing in the country, with $1.6 billion in assets and more than 800 employees.

Founded in 1972, the company owns and manages more than 22,000 housing units at nearly 200 sites in 19 states, the DNR release says.

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