The under-construction affordable housing development that burned in the widespread violence in south Minneapolis late Wednesday and early Thursday was to be a six-story rental building with 198 apartments for low-income renters, including more than three dozen for very low-income tenants.
Construction began last fall on Midtown Corner, which was expected to be completed and ready for occupancy this year. Late Wednesday the wood-framed upper floors of the building were fully engulfed in flames, with thick plumes of smoke that figured prominently in widely viewed photos of the riots. By Thursday morning, what had been an active construction site was reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes atop what was left of the concrete first-floor commercial space.
The redevelopment project was on the site of the former Rainbow Foods grocery store at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue in south Minneapolis.
The developer, Twin Cities-based Wellington Management, declined to comment Thursday on the fate of the project.
Wellington has done several income-restricted rental projects throughout the Twin Cities on difficult-to-redevelop sites, including offices and an apartment building that are under construction along Penn Avenue in north Minneapolis.
Wellington has been a prolific developer and investor in the area for more than a decade. Over the years the company has developed several rental buildings in the Lake and Hiawatha corridor, and it has also invested in commercial projects including the Greenway Office Building and the Hi-Lake Shopping Center.
The fire also heavily damaged 7-Sigma, a high-tech manufacturing company that’s occupied a low-rise industrial building across the street from the Midtown Corner site for more than 30 years. The entire roof and upper floors of that brick building were destroyed, and water spilled out of broken windows on the lower floors as firefighters continued dousing the building with water early Thursday.
Barb Jeanetta is executive director of Alliance Housing, a nonprofit that has two rental buildings in the area, including Hiawatha Commons, an 80-unit low-income apartment building adjacent to Cub Foods and Target. Some of the first-floor retail tenants were looted and vandalized, but the building was largely unscathed.
“It’s just such a firestorm right now,” she said. “All in all, we came out pretty lucky.”
Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376