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Fox Pointe project to build 38 townhomes takes a small step forward

The Fox Pointe housing development is a step closer to moving forward after the Austin City Council recently backed a preliminary plat proposal.

The development, proposed by the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Three Rivers Community Action Inc. is a 38-unit townhome project that will include lots for single-family houses.

“Austin will absolutely benefit from this,” Austin Planning and Zoning Administrator Holly Wallace said. “This is one of our goals. Housing and newer quality rental units are in demand.”

The roughly eight-acre plat is located north of the 18th Avenue Northwest retail corridor adjacent to Seventh Street Northwest and 24th Avenue Northwest. The Austin Planning Commission approved the plat on June 13.

Wallace said the availability of more affordable high quality rental units and housing has been a goal for the city.

“We received a lot of comments from people moving into the city about the lack of new builds and new housing in the last few years since the housing bubble collapsed,” she said.

Mayor Tom Stiehm formed an ad hoc committee that spoke to local business owners. The general consensus was the city needed more affordable high quality rentals and homes in order to attract a dwindling workforce.

A city housing study done in 2013 drew the same conclusion.

The last housing development built in Austin was Science Park, built by the Hormel Foundations to house employees of The Hormel Institute.

“To have the Hormel Foundation put up housing geared towards the Institute alone tells you there is a need,” Wallace said.

Three Rivers Community Action contacted the HRA in 2015 about developing the Fox Pointe project. In 2016, the project was awarded tax credit through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency; a program the agency uses to stimulate the development of affordable housing.

The current layout of the plat provides space for 38 townhome units, which will be managed by a company chosen by Three Rivers Community Development. The plat will include lot spaces retained by the HRA, who will work with a development company to construct single-family homes.

With the preliminary plat request approved, the Austin Planning Commission and the Austin City Council will be able to review the grounds to see the layout and ask questions. A final plat approval and any necessary rezoning must be done before construction can begin.

Wallace said that the council defers much of the work to the planning commission. The planning commission is currently working on an agreement to clarify how infrastructure and utilities would go in and how costs would be allocated between the city and the developer.

Three Rivers Community Development Inc. is hoping to break ground this fall. Once completed, the townhomes will be rented at a value ranging from $718 to $926 per month.