Commons at Penn Opens in North Minneapolis

Mixed-use community hub celebrates grand opening of affordable apartments and future co-op.

Minneapolis developer Building Blocks, Inc. and its many project funders are pleased to announce the grand opening of Commons at Penn, a new construction, 47-unit, mixed-use, transit-oriented development in the heart of the Willard-Hay neighborhood in Minneapolis.

The new residential community, located at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road, provides attractive new affordable housing to Minneapolis families.

Commons at Penn offers a mix of residential homes between one and three bedrooms, all targeted to households at or below 50% of area median income. The first floor includes 4,000 square feet that will be occupied by Wirth Co-op grocery store starting in late spring 2016. Commons at Penn is the culmination of a longstanding commitment to the neighborhood by resident and retired NBA player Devean George, who grew up near the site of the new development and as president of Building Blocks, Inc., has chosen to “rebuild community, one block at a time.”

Devean George of Building Blocks thanked the many partners who made Commons at Penn possible at a celebration in the future grocery store space on Jan. 27. “This building represents what we can accomplish when the community plays as a team; fortyseven families will have a new home that is safe and affordable,” says George. “I’m grateful to all our partners for helping make this a reality.” The City of Minneapolis has been supportive of the Commons at Penn development since its inception. “This is a wonderful development and one I am happy to celebrate. Devean George and Building Blocks have committed to the Northside and I thank them,” says Ward 5 Council Member Blong Yang. “The affordable apartments in this development will provide stable housing for Northsiders and the neighborhood will benefit from the new grocery store, the Wirth Co-op.”

Andrea Brennan, the City of Minneapolis Director of Housing Policy and Development, adds that the City is pleased to support this project with its Affordable Housing Trust Fund and other financing tools. “Commons at Penn achieves multiple city goals: creating new high quality affordable housing options, increased residential density along a key commercial and transit corridor, and bringing in commercial activity and services,” says Brennan. “This project sets us on a promising course to continue development at this important North Minneapolis node.”

Minnesota Housing, the state housing financing agency, lent significant state support to the development by allocating Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to the project. The Minnesota Equity Fund brings $3.8 million in private, socially motivated investor capital to the development. “The Minnesota Equity Fund is proud to be one of the many partners in the funding of Commons at Penn and especially proud to partner with Building Blocks, which has designed and built a beautiful new development that provides a safer, more secure future for the 47 families and children who will live here,” says Warren Hanson, president and CEO of Minnesota Equity Fund. Hennepin County provided support to Commons at Penn through their Environmental Response Fund, Affordable Housing Incentive Fund, and Transit Oriented Development program.

Amenities at the four-story Commons at Penn include an on‐site fitness center, tot lot, gated picnic area, secure bike storage, community space, and future grocery store. The development is within close proximity to employment opportunities and public transportation, and is located along the future Bottineau Boulevard Light Rail Transitway that will run from downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park. Real Estate Equities is the property manager for Commons at Penn and is currently leasing apartments.

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