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Addy Free is a believer in the co-op model. He's already a member of a St. Paul grocery cooperative and is hoping to move into the newly established Nokoma housing cooperative in the Stevens Square neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

"I really like the cooperative structure," said Free, who will pay about $48,000 for a share, "and I'll only be two blocks from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts."

The Nokoma, which at one time was a neglected apartment building on the corner of E. Franklin and 3rd Av. S., is being converted into an affordable condo cooperative.

Residents move in June 1.

Cooperatives are like condominiums, but have a different ownership structure. With a typical condominium association, residents own individual units and become members of a homeowners association that pays for improvements and operating expenses with funds collected from homeowners' fees.

In a co-op, each resident owns a share of a corporation that owns and maintains the entire building and collectively shares expenses.

This is a limited-equity model in which future affordability is preserved because there are limits on how much profit a seller can make.

"This type of co-op is more common on the East and West Coasts; in Minnesota senior co-ops are common," said Lee Blons, executive director of the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation.

The foundation acted as a nonprofit developer for the project and bought the building in 2005.

The co-op is for people with good credit history and a household income under $34,000 a year.

One-bedroom apartments start at $45,412, with monthly payments ranging from $685 to $750, which includes mortgage, property taxes, operating costs, heat and water.

The payments are comparable to the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a similar building in Minneapolis, said Blons.

Financing is through U.S. Bancorp and because the foundation is arranging financing and screening the applicants, borrowers will not have to seek approval from a traditional lender at a time when getting financing can be a challenge, said Blons.

The $1 million renovation of the nearly 100-year-old building includes new windows that match the style of the building, updated mechanical systems and refurbished kitchens and bathrooms in the 19 units.

The original oak hardwood floors, wood trim and built-in bookcases are intact.

The Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation also owns the building next door, which currently has rental apartments. It will eventually be converted into an affordable-housing co-op, as well.

"Our goal is to create a model that can be replicated in other neighborhoods," Blons said.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619