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At a construction site in St. Louis Park, drywall dust and dangling wires are beginning to give way to a vision for a place where struggling families could find stability.

The building is set to become apartments for lower-income families, with a child-care center on the ground floor that will be heavily subsidized for residents. The pairing is the first of its kind in Minnesota, according to the groups who envisioned the complex, and aims to be a source of strength for low-income families.

"That's going to enable families to remain reliably employed, pursue their careers and really break the cycle of poverty," said Kylie Cooper, who will be the child-care center's director.

The group behind the project — a broad coalition that includes a nonprofit developer, a group that works with families of young children, and a handful of St. Louis Park churches and synagogues — hopes others will replicate the model, as more families grapple with the twin crises of unaffordable housing and unaffordable child care.

The closure of a church led to an available space for the building, which will be called Rise on 7 for its site just off Hwy. 7.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church was merging with another congregation, and its property was for sale. Another St. Louis Park church, Westwood Lutheran, worked with nonprofit developer CommonBond to draft a proposal.

Key funding came from gifts from Westwood's members, the Rev. Jason Van Hunnik said. The congregation had decided that instead of raising money for repairs or upgrades to the church building, they would raise money for something important in the community. The $1.4 million contribution from Westwood and other congregations adds to other subsidies from government programs and eventual rental income from the building.

"Faith and life were not connecting with people," Van Hunnik said, and the congregation wanted to find a way to use its collective energy to make a difference in their city. After several conversations with leaders in the city and St. Louis Park schools, affordable housing emerged as the most pressing problem.

Developers have built plenty of new apartments in the past decade, especially along the Green Line light-rail extension. But not many have rents affordable for lower-income people, or apartments big enough for families.

Van Hunnik said the cost of child care has also been a major concern as city leaders worry about St. Louis Park becoming unaffordable for families. As planning for Rise on 7 progressed, the planners decided to try to raise a little more money to expand the building, and add a child-care center.

The average cost of child care in the west metro is $22,000 per year for one child, Cooper said. That's out of reach for working-class families like those who will live at Rise on 7. Families there will pay about 7% of their household income for care, with the rest of the cost of the center's operations subsidized by state and county programs, as well as private fundraising from the church groups. The child-care center will also pay no rent for its first 10 years.

Art Rolnick, economist and former Federal Reserve executive who has been a vocal advocate for public subsidies for early-childhood education, said the pairing of child care with affordable housing could make a meaningful difference for families.

"It is the most effective way to ensure that these children will succeed in life," Rolnick said of early-childhood education.

Cooper said on-site care for children will make it easier for families with hectic schedules, especially those who might work multiple jobs. They won't have to drive across town to drop off their kids before heading into work because child care will be right in their building.

"There's not a program that exists that's exactly like ours," Cooper said. Rise on 7 will be the only development in the country that offers services to its young families, from prenatal visits through homework help for children up to third grade, through the Minneapolis-based group Way to Grow.

Van Hunnik said he hoped the project would spur other churches to think bigger about what their fundraising campaigns could do. Maybe a church can't run a new program for the long term, he said, but a congregation can raise money and make connections that can start something big.

"We as a faith community can have a more significant role as a catalyst for others to come to the table," he said.

Correction: Rise on 7 and Rise Early are Minnesota's first co-located affordable housing development and subsidized early childhood education program. Minnesota has other preschools located in apartment buildings.