Union Flats Apartments

Project Location: 787 Hampden Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55114

Nominated by: Braun Intertec Corporation

Union Flats Apartments is a new, affordable, transit-oriented apartment community located near the Green Line with service to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Light Rail system. Union Flats, once a bulk petroleum storage facility, helps revitalize the largely industrial area, bringing 217 total homes. It serves as an important transition to the retail-rich University Avenue just one block away. The development is the first project of its kind to be built off this core street.

The site had a 100-year history of industrial use. It was once home to the Northwestern Blaugas Company, from about 1910 until the late 1950s. This plant manufactured compressed oil-gas and purified phenols through extraction from wood tar. Contamination was identified in soil, groundwater, and soil vapor at the site including VOCs, SVOCs, metals DRO in the soil; VOCs, SVOCs and DRO in the groundwater; and VOCs in the soil vapor. Additionally, demolition debris from former structures left behind asbestos-containing materials and other regulated hazardous materials.

During initial demolition, an unexpected 10,000-gallon concrete tank was discovered buried at the site. Once uncovered, the tank was found to contain thousands of gallons of oily green-colored petroleum, phenolic impacted liquid, sludge, and debris. Response actions were implemented immediately to minimize any construction schedule delays. This included pumping out the liquids into a large double-walled aboveground storage tank allowing for disposal, characterization of the liquids, and making the tank accessible for cleaning. Following sampling and analytical testing to characterize the materials, the contaminated process water, solids, sludge, cleaning residues, concrete tank, and underlying soils were properly disposed at permitted in-state and out-of-state facilities. A mercury contaminated soil “hotspot” was delineated and remediated. A sub-slab vapor mitigation system was installed. Ultimately, approximately 34,000 tons of contaminated soil and other materials were removed and managed before a No Further Action letter was issued by the MPCA in 2019.

The former industrial site is now a four story apartment building over a one-story underground parking garage. Union Flats brings 217 units of affordable, transit-oriented affordable housing to the area, where census data shows over half of the population lives near or below the poverty line. The property is already 98% occupied. Rent at Union Flats is as much as $600 below market rate. To integrate the transit-oriented nature of the area, Union Flats includes a bike lounge and repair shop for residents. In addition, the development has improved the area’s pedestrian walkways; and the City is working to establish dedicated bike lanes in the neighborhood to tie into the nearby bike trails and provide safer transportation options for the community.

Project Financing

  • Borrower Cash, Investor Equity, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity
  • 1st Mortgage (HUD 221(d)(4) Loan) and Series C Bonds
  • MN DEED Contamination Cleanup
  • Metropolitan Council TBRA & TOD
  • Ramsey County ERF

Project Partners

  • St. Paul Leased Housing Associates VIII, LLLP (Dominium Development)(Owner and Developer)
  • Braun Intertec Corporation (Environmental Consultant and Geotechnical Engineer)
  • Weis Builders, Inc. (General Contractor)
  • BKV Group (Project Architect)
  • Loucks, Inc. (Project Civil Engineer)
  • MN DEED (Environmental cleanup grant provider)
  • Metropolitan Council (Environmental cleanup grant provider)
  • Ramsey County (Environmental cleanup grant provider)
  • City of St. Paul (Administered environmental cleanup grants)
  • Citi Community Capital (Investor)
  • Dougherty & Company/Colliers (Lender)
  • MHFA (Credit Agency)
  • MPCA VIC and Petroleum Brownfields Programs (Environmental Regulatory Review and Approvals)