Murphy’s Creek moves forward

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 13, 2000

The Murphy’s Creek Addition housing project has suddenly made it off the drawing board and onto nearly every agenda in the city of Austin.

Friday, October 13, 2000

The Murphy’s Creek Addition housing project has suddenly made it off the drawing board and onto nearly every agenda in the city of Austin.

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– On Tuesday, the Austin Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval by the Austin City Council of the rezoning of the land where the housing addition will be located, albeit with 18 conditions.

– On Wednesday, the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board heard good news about the progress of funding for the moderately priced housing development.

– And on Monday, the Austin City Council and any citizens who would like to comment will take their turn addressing the proposed development at the council’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

These steps with the various city commissions, HRA Executive Director Kermit Mahan said, mean Murphy’s Creek is most of the way to becoming a reality. If the council approves the rezoning and plat of the property, that clears the way for construction to start in the spring, provided the expected funding sources come through. The site for the housing development is just west of Fourth Street NW north of Mapleview.

The HRA executive director credits Apex Austin and the Hormel Foundation with making Murphy’s Creek a reality.

"We provided the technical assistance," Mahan said, "but we never would have advanced on the concept of something like Murphy’s Creek if the Apex subcommittee and the ultimately the Hormel Foundation hadn’t approved it. This idea went through a tremendous amount of review and scrutiny before it was OK’d."

As proposed, Murphy’s Creek will include a mix of housing: 88 rental townhome units – 38 which will be market rate rental and 50 that will have some income guidelines for renters to meet – and between 36 and 40 single-family homes for up to 128 housing units. The rent on the townhomes will range from $439 a month to $669, while the single-family lots will be built for purchase only.

Mahan said the two elements – rental and single family homes – of Murphy’s Creek had already proven themselves in two previous examples: the Whittier Townhomes and the HRA-built homes near the Austin Municipal Airport.

"We’re not reinventing the wheel here," he said. "This will work here; I have a high level of comfort with that."

Infrastructure and a cul de sac were installed on the site three years ago to lure industry to Austin. Those steps made the site more attractive to Apex and the HRA, even if there weren’t any industrial takers. The land was sold to the HRA by the City Council for $1 at the last council meeting, contingent on the resolution of the zoning and other issues. Mahan said the city would be reimbursed for its investment.

Funding for the estimated $12 million project is to come from a number of private and public sources. The Hormel Foundation, via Apex, already has committed $2.25 million to the project, contingent on the city’s approval of rezoning requests and the success of applications to other funding sources, such as the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Mahan said he expects good news from Greater Minnesota and the Housing Finance Agency by Oct. 26.

Podawiltz Development, the development company for the site, will provide the private investment dollars and oversee the housing after it’s developed.

In other housing news, Mahan reported to the HRA board Wednesday that the Chauncey Apartments project – the second phase of the Courtyard Apartments – remains ahead of schedule with construction and is already 50 percent rented.

"With Chauncey, we satisfy two needs," Mahan said. "We are filling an unmet need for our aging population and, by renting to them and getting them out of their single-family homes, we’re putting another 80 or so homes on the market."