Developer seeks approval for affordable housing at Gage East - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Developer seeks approval for affordable housing at Gage East

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Center City Housing Corp., a non-profit affordable housing developer, hosted an informational meeting at Gage Elementary School on Wednesday.  The Duluth-based developer plans to build an apartment complex for homeless families and youths at Gage East School. 

The Rochester School Board owns the building and surrounding six acres.  Before the board makes a decision at an upcoming meeting, they requested Center City to meet with the neighborhood.  Superintendent Michael Muñoz, school board members and more than 50 neighbors attended Wednesday's meeting. 

"It's not a done deal," said Muñoz.  "The board wants to know what the community thinks about this."

According to Superintendent Muñoz, more than 300 children in the school district are homeless or in some type of shelter.  The RPS Alternative Learning Center's Gordy Ziebart said there are at least ten students who, currently, would benefit from the affordable housing development.

"I think sometimes we have a certain vision about homeless people and not all homeless people are that way," said Superintendent Muñoz.  "Sometimes certain situations come up and they're homeless and those kids want to go to class and be successful just like every other student." 

Center City Housing Corp. officials detailed their plans to build a 55 unit, three story building on the site.  The new housing would include rental units for homeless families and young people between the ages of 16 and 21. 

Neighbors at the meeting voiced their concerns with the development and future residents.  Many residents said the new project would increase foot and vehicle traffic and the potential for crime.  Others noted this would be the third major development to surround the neighborhood.  Center City said residents at the development would have to adhere to strict building rules and would be subject to background checks.  The project could take anywhere from three to five years to build.

"I hope that the school board approves this and that the development is started and up and running as quickly as possible." said Karen Edmonds, a Rochester resident.  "Families need stability.  Children need stability.  What I heard tonight was fear and 'not in my backyard.'"

Many residents who spoke out against the development said they didn't oppose Center City's plans for affordable housing, rather, they didn't want the complex close to Gage Elementary.  Center City officials admitted this would be their first development in such close proximity to an elementary school.  They said, while they looked at several other properties in the city, this location was the only feasible option.

The opinions and questions of residents were recorded and will be presented to the school board.  School board members also requested Center City provide detailed research of their previous locations and impact on neighborhoods.  The school board will review all information before making a decision at its May 6th meeting.  If the school board approves the sale the proposal will move forward to the City Council. 
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