Historic Ft. Snelling barracks to become government-subsidized housing, who will profit?

Courtesy of the National Park Service
Courtesy of the National Park Service
Courtesy of the National Park Service

A plan to turn 26 buildings at historic Ft. Snelling  into 190-government-subsidized apartment units was announced this week by Lt. Governor Tina Flint Smith.  The $100 million project would cover 41-acres adjacent to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Restoring buildings built between the 1879-1939 for subsidized housing leads to questions of energy efficiency and overall cost-effectiveness.  The area isn’t incorporated and is run by the the state’s Department of Natural Resources. New sewer lines would need to be installed and services like police and fire would still need to be determined.

The project will be subsidized by both state and federal funds via low-income and historic housing tax credits.  Per the Star Tribune, the apartments would be rented to families with a total income of $60,000 a year or less and 1-3 bedroom units would rent for $900-$1,250 per month.

Plymouth-based Dominium has submitted the project proposal and specializes in low-income housing development and management.  The for-profit firm buys distressed assets in addition to developing new projects and is the 5th largest owner of affordable housing units in the country per their website.  The company has $1.6 billion in assets and owns or manages more than 22,000 apartment units in 19 states. According to a 2010 article in Affordable Housing Finance, Dominium uses a combination of of federal HUD Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, gap-financing in the form of federal and state subsidies, tax-exempt municipal bonds, and conventional financing to fund projects.

Tunheim Partners is listed as the media contact for Dominium.  Tunheim’s CEO is  Kathy Tunheim who is a Senior Advisor to Governor Mark Dayton on job creation.  Dominium is named on the client list that Tunheim released to the Star Tribune in 2011 when questions about potential conflict of interest arose.  Alpha News previously reported on Tunheim as a part of a story about cronyism in the Dayton administration.  Tunheim’s other clients include The Met Council and the Metropolitan Sports Commission.


Dominion jpeg

Lt. Governor Tina Flint Smith made the announcement about the new housing project from Ft Snelling on Wednesday.  Per the Pioneer Press, Flint Smith said that the deal would be handled through the Governor’s office with no input from the legislature. The state’s executive council will take a vote which is “month’s off.”  The executive council consists of the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, and state Attorney General, all of whom are elected Democrats.

Ft. Snelling historic site has other restoration plans underway with the Minnesota Historical Society seeking $34.4 million from the legislature to demolish the existing visitor’s center, built in 1980, and renovate one historic calvary barracks to create a new visitor’s center.  $500,000 was approved by the legislature in June for pre-design of the project which would sit on the other side of the frontage road from the affordable housing project.