There's a new plan on the table for Opus II housing.

 
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Byline: Matt M. Johnson

A St. Paul developer wants separate market-rate and affordable workforce housing proposed for Minnetonka's Opus II business park after investors have expressed discomfort with a skywalk connection between the two.

Newport Midwest is proposing changes to its $60 million, 249-unit project "The Mariner" at 10400-10550 Bren Road E. that will require new approvals for the previously greenlit project. The city's Planning Commission will review a new concept plan for the project on June 13.

The new plan would put the workforce housing adjacent to the future Southwest Light Rail Transit line and would place a separate market-rate building on the opposite side of site to get the "highest level of marketability," according to a letter from Newport Midwest President Becky Landon. The project site is within about 700 feet of the Opus Station on the future transit line.

Investors were not concerned about the proximity of the buildings to one another, she said in a Monday interview. The physical connection was the issue.

"I have found the universe of investors that work on market rate and investors in affordable housing, there's not a lot of overlap," she said.

The city approved an earlier plan for The Mariner last year. At that time, the workforce and market-rate apartment buildings in the project would have been physically connected via a skywalk. Newport recently went back to the city to ask for the plan change after the company ran into difficulty in securing investors for the project.

About 25 investor groups have toured the site, but those investors raised several concerns about the project site, according to Landon's letter. They said the Opus business park's apartment market was still "untested" as most of the apartments proposed for the park are under construction or in some other stage of...

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