One more housing box checked off

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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Officials break ground for apartments in downtown Austin


After about a year and a half of behind-the-scenes work, shovels were put in the ground during a groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon for the 1st & 3rd Apartments project, located east across from the Post Office.

However, work was already proceeding across from the groundbreaking as remediation was being done to remove contaminated soil where a railroad bed used to be.

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All of it together was an optimistic start to a project that is much needed in Austin.

“This is what we do every day to get a great read on people’s needs,” said Austin HRA Director Taggert Medgaarden. “We need this badly and we are no different from most communities around the nation.”

Housing has been at the forefront of city and county planning, and this project will be the second with Three Rivers Housing, a non-profit organization that serves a large part of southeast Minnesota and is based out of Zumbrota.

1st & 3rd comes on the heels of the Fox Pointe Townhome housing development located in northwest Austin. The project was Three River’s first in Austin.

Three Rivers Community Development Director Leah Hall said the 1st & 3rd Apartments is not only a great example of what Three Rivers does with local communities in need of housing, but that the location just makes sense for Austin.

“What’s great about this location is we’re in a redevelopment area,” Hall said. “We love the fact that we’re kitty-corner to the Community Action Building. It makes sense to build here. Fox Pointe was in a residential area and it fit there.”

Work was already being done at the 1st & 3rd site as remediation efforts removed contaminated soil prior to the office start of construction. Moments later, ground was officially broken for the project. Eric Johnson/

When completed, 1st & 3rd will be aimed at affordable and supportive housing with rents set at 30%, 50% and 60% of area median income.

The $16 million project will have 40 units expected to start at around $775 for a one-bedroom apartment and range to around $1,250 for a four-bedroom unit.

When completed, it will put Three Rivers over the 1,000 mark in terms of units constructed.

Construction on the building is expected to start this summer still, once the remediation work is completed with hopes of getting the foundation in the ground before the onset of winter.

Construction is expected to be completed next year with leases opening up to people around the fall of 2024.

Throughout Tuesday’s ceremony, “partnership” was a common theme, with many mentioning that this project doesn’t get completed without partners in the business, city and county organizations.

“It’s always an honor to attend these things,” Mayor Steve King said. “It’s important to note that the community of Austin is recognized for partnerships and working together.”

“We are just looking forward to this building for those that need a hand up,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of Mower County, Board Chair Mike Ankeny added that the county has always been keenly aware of housing needs within the area.

“Speaking for the board, we appreciate this project. Mower County is aware of the kinds of housing (needed),” he said. “This project provides supported housing for those individuals.”

1st & 3rd Apartments is just beginning its construction as another complex, the Mills on Main apartments at the old YMCA site, is coming to the end of its construction.

While those apartments are geared more toward higher income, it’s just another part of the overall picture of providing housing opportunities to all people.

“We’re checking a box and putting out a lot of housing,” he said. “From the city of Austin and the HRA, we recognize it’s not one kind of housing.”