A federal judge has dismissed a developer’s lawsuit over a plan to build high-density housing on a St. Anthony site known for decades as Lowry Grove, the suburb’s now-defunct mobile home park.
Developer Brad Hoyt last year sued the city of St. Anthony, alleging that city officials had induced his company to buy and close Lowry Grove without intending to approve the project meant to take its place. The suit accused city leaders of trying to rid the suburb of the many low-income residents and families of color who lived in the mobile home park.
But in an order filed last week, U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz dismissed the developer’s claims of “a wide-ranging fraud and civil conspiracy as well as violations of the Fair Housing Act.”
City officials have also denied the developer’s allegations, describing the lawsuit as “ridiculous.”
“The city is pleased that the court recognized that all the claims on the lawsuit should be dismissed,” City Manager Mark Casey said in a statement Friday.
Hoyt could not be reached for comment but has said he no longer plans to redevelop the property.
The judge’s recent order is the latest chapter in a bitter saga that began nearly three years ago after Lowry Grove residents learned that the property had been sold for redevelopment. The sale ignited a fierce legal battle to save the park and the affordable housing it offered, including a bid from residents and a nonprofit housing developer to buy Lowry Grove instead. Nearly 100 families were forced to vacate the park by its closure in June 2017, leaving some homeless.
Hoyt’s company, the Village, bought Lowry Grove for $6 million in 2016 to transform the property into hundreds of apartments. The City Council rejected the developer’s request to build more than 700 units on the 15-acre site, citing widespread pushback from neighbors over the height and scope of the project.
City officials eventually approved a revised plan that scaled back the density to about 430 units. The Village then pursued tax-increment financing (TIF), indicating it was necessary to make the project feasible with the lower density.
But a financial consultant informed city officials in 2018 that TIF was unnecessary, prompting Hoyt to sue, according to the 21-page order dismissing the suit.
In the order, Schiltz described the developer’s complaint over TIF as “premature.” The judge wrote that the “advice of the outside analyst is not binding on the City — and the City has not yet decided whether it will provide TIF — but Hoyt and The Village have nevertheless filed this action ...”
Schiltz also noted that Hoyt and the Village “do not explain how the closure of the park damaged them in any way — that is, how they would be better off today” had they kept the mobile home park open.
Since Lowry Grove closed nearly two years ago, the property has mostly sat empty. Homes too old to move were torn down and cleared away. With the redevelopment tabled, plans are now taking shape to return the land to its former use as a mobile home park.
Hoyt has said he expects the new park to be move-in ready this summer. But this time around, it will be called “Urban Grove.”
Hannah Covington • 612-673-4751