MetroPlains LLC's Firehouse Development offers 40 units of affordable rental housing targeted for families with restricted incomes. The project is the result of a community planning process calling for additional affordable housing in the city.June 2013 | The Firehouse and Firehouse Flats bring new life to Duluth's Hillside neighborhood, combining the renovation of a historic firehouse and new construction to provide much needed affordable housing in the area.
Firehouse and Firehouse Flats includes:
- Mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units.
- 9 units are set aside for households earning 30% of the area median income (AMI), 27 units for households earning 60% of the AMI, but rents are restricted to 50% AMI rental rates, and 4 units for formerly homeless residents.
- Case management is provided by Churches United in Ministry to help tenants maintain housing, find jobs, and access services.
- Amenities include a courtyard, rooftop deck, community room, underground parking, storage and a fitness center.
The project's concept came out of a neighborhood collaborative planning effort as
part of Duluth LISC's Building Sustainable Communities Initiative. The initiative, locally known as At Home in Duluth, is a coalition of 25 organizations working with residents to help the Duluth neighborhoods prosper. Members collaborate on comprehensive neighborhood revitalization, looking at affordable housing development and rehabilitation, redevelopment of historic properties, neighborhood planning, commercial corridor development, resident engagement, asset and income building strategies, foreclosure remediation, and workforce and educational initiatives.
A series of design charettes allowed residents to provide feedback about how they want their community to look. Among the concerns identified, residents wished to develop new housing on vacant and underutilized properties and to improve the living conditions of renters in the area. The Central Hillside Community Neighborhood Revitalization Plan was completed in 2007.
Because Duluth's Fire House No. 1 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, MetroPlains was able to leverage Historic and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to help finance the project. United Health, in partnership with US Bank, invested in these tax credits for a total of $7.63 million. Greater Minnesota Housing Fund provided an interim loan and a permanent gap loan totaling $220,000 to keep rents affordable. MHFA provided $1.4 million in the form of a 30-year deferred loan.