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The Heights: A Historic Investment in St. Paul’s Greater East Side

The Heights: A Historic Investment in St. Paul’s Greater East Side

The Greater East Side of St. Paul is a vibrant community with plenty of small businesses, arts and culture organizations, and a strong and longstanding pride in the East Sider identity. Rich with working-class history, it's the most racially diverse area of St. Paul. Yet the East Side community deserves more investment, resources, and opportunities.

Expanding the East Side is a much-needed affordable housing development—The Heights. The approximately $750 million project is the largest modern-day investment in the East Side that will bring more than 1,000 units of affordable housing to the area. And The Heights is not just an affordable housing development—it’s the creation of a new community with 25 acres of parks and greenspace, neighborhood gathering spaces, public art, bikeable and walkable environments, and 1,000 living-wage jobs. The Heights will also have a unique focus on environmental sustainability—it’s designed to be an all-electric community seeking LEED-Platinum Certification.

The Heights rendering_Winthrop AveThe Heights will be a new neighborhood with trails, bike lanes, and greenspaces. Actual design and landscaping may change. 

The Power of Public-Private Partnerships

A transformational project like this is only possible when many partners work together toward a common vision. The Heights is a remarkable collaboration of public, private, nonprofit, and community partners—all doing their part to bring more vibrancy, affordability, and opportunity to the Greater East Side.

The Heights groundbreakingPartners came together in July 2023 to officially break ground on the project.

Here’s a glimpse at what public-private partnership looks like at The Heights:

  • In 2019, the Saint Paul Port Authority (SPPA), an economic development agency, purchased the 112-acre site using bonding authorized by the Saint Paul City Council.
  • In 2023, Sherman Associates, a Minneapolis-based commercial real estate development and management firm, was named the lead housing developer at The Heights.
  • At the same time, JO Companies, a Black-owned, Twin Cites-based, mission-driven real estate development company, and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit homeownership developer, were selected to create housing alongside Sherman.
  • Partners hope to access project funding from a variety of sources including the City of St. Paul, Ramsey County, the Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Housing, and federal and private sources.
  • Working collectively as The Heights Affordable Housing Partnership, the housing development partners are seeking $73 million in Housing Infrastructure Funds from the State of Minnesota. The request is for funds from existing programs at the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. If designated to The Heights, it would close a 17% funding gap in the project and ensure the affordable housing project can soon come to fruition.
  • Since 2019, the City and SPPA have prioritized community engagement and input through outreach, workgroups, and the establishment of the Hillcrest Community Advisory Council. Feedback from these outreach efforts significantly informed the Master Plan and shows the importance of building pride in the East Side community for its uniqueness, diversity, and rich heritage. Partners will continue to engage with the community to understand its priorities for the neighborhood.
  • A wide range of subcontractors and vendors will collaborate on this project, including architects, engineers, designers, and builders.  

Chris Coleman on a build site

“Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is honored to be a partner in this transformative project on the East Side that will have a meaningful impact on our region’s housing shortage,” said Chris Coleman, President & CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. “The inclusion of Habitat homeownership at The Heights is essential to unlocking generational wealth-building for working-class families and creating a more vibrant, equitable City of Saint Paul.”

Aerial footage of The Heights site from November 2023.

A Response to the Affordable Housing Crisis

In 2023, the State of Minnesota took a historic step to address the housing crisis by appropriating $1 billion to support affordable housing. This is the state’s largest-ever investment in affordable housing. The state challenged public, private, and nonprofit institutions to find bold new solutions to expand access to affordable housing, address housing disparities, and support working-class Minnesotans.

The Heights is an unprecedented response to this call.

The Heights will offer a wide range of housing options and pricing across a wide spectrum of needs. Development partners will create a strategic mix of affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities—totaling 1,046 units of affordable housing. The goal is to deliver a mix of high-density and mid-density housing options for sale and for rent.

Heights birds eye view 800x450Design renderings of apartment buildings at The Heights. Actual design and landscaping may change. 

The housing mix will include:

  • 147 affordable homeownership opportunities (single-family homes, twin homes, and townhomes), developed by Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
  • 199 rental units (one multi-family building) that are affordable and deeply affordable, developed by JO Companies.
  • 700 rental units across five multi-family buildings that are a mix of affordable, deeply affordable, workforce market-rate, and senior housing, developed by Sherman Associates.

At nearly 150 homes, this will be the largest project in the history of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. While the scale is greater than other projects we’ve completed, we’re expanding our capacity in financing, construction, and sales to support the effort. We’ll also spread construction across five years, so we’ll build at a familiar pace.

2023.02.16 The Heights Block 3 NE Aerial - sized for webAerial design rendering of one of the four blocks of Habitat homes at The Heights.

As always, the Habitat homes will be affordable for working-class families and individuals and will be built with high standards for quality and sustainability. At Twin Cities Habitat, we're also focused on advancing racial equity in housing, particularly on advancing Black homeownership. This project provides an amazing opportunity for families of color to gain the benefits and wealth-building potential of Habitat homeownership.

2023.02.16-The-Heights-Block-3-NW-Corner---sized-for-web---generated-lawnDesign rendering of one of the blocks of Habitat townhomes. Actual design and landscaping may change. 

All Eyes on The Heights during Carter Work Project

In fall 2024, the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project will cast a global spotlight on The Heights! Thousands of volunteers, celebrities, elected officials, and other VIPs will gather to work on 35+ homes in this historic development and raise awareness for the critical need for affordable housing in the Twin Cities and around the world.

The Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project is an annual event which celebrates the impact that President & Mrs. Carter have had on Habitat for Humanity’s mission around the world. Over its nearly 40-year history, the Carter Work Project has traveled to 14 countries, engaged 104,000 volunteers, and helped build, renovate, and repair 4,390 homes across the globe. In the Carters' stead, a new generation of Habitat Humanitarians will carry the torch. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will continue the Carters’ legacy as hosts of the Carter Work Project.

Find more information and stay in the know by signing up for the Build Forward: Carter Work Project newsletter.

ACPhoto_JRCWP_20101004_181-1
Twin Cities Habitat hosted the Carter Work Project in 2010. 

Quick Facts about The Heights

  • The Heights is a 112-acre redevelopment of the former Hillcrest Golf Course at the intersection of Larpenteur Avenue and McKnight Road.
  • The Heights will include:
    • 1,046 units of affordable housing
    • 1,000 living wage jobs
    • A 5-acre park
    • An additional 20 acres of greenspace
  • When complete, the project will include more than $450 million in new housing.
  • Pollution remediation is now complete. Mass grading is ongoing and public infrastructure installation will begin in Spring 2024. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity will begin home construction in summer 2024. Construction on the multifamily buildings is expected to start in the fall of 2024. Construction is estimated to be complete in late 2028.
  • The Heights is a cutting-edge, all-electric residential development, which leads to improved indoor air quality and major reductions in greenhouse gas use. The Saint Paul Port Authority is seeking LEED Platinum Certification for the development.

More about the Key Partners

About St. Paul Port Authority

The Saint Paul Port Authority is an economic development agency that expands the city’s tax base, serves as a conduit to quality job opportunities, advances sustainable and equitable development, and advocates for river commerce.

About Sherman Associates

Sherman Associates is a commercial real estate development and management firm based in Minneapolis with properties throughout the Midwest, Colorado, and Florida. Sherman has developed more than 12,000 multifamily units and currently owns and manages more than 6,800 multifamily rental units (affordable and market-rate). Sherman also owns and manages more than 640,000 square feet of commercial space, five hotels, four Starbucks, three restaurants, and two solar gardens. The company’s long-term vision is to build neighborhoods, enrich communities, and empower people.

About JO Companies

JO Companies, LLC is a Black-owned, mission-driven real estate development company located in the Twin Cities that specializes in developing affordable and workforce multifamily housing. Other real estate development areas include market rate, mixed-use, and commercial. The company was founded by Johnny Opara, President and CEO, in 2009. JO Companies currently has more than $200M in their real estate development pipeline and has recently completed "The Hollows," an $18.4M 62-unit workforce housing development on the Greater East Side in Saint Paul.

About Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity brings people together to create, preserve, and promote affordable homeownership and advance racial equity in housing. Since 1985, more than 1,700 families have partnered with Twin Cities Habitat to unlock the transformational power of homeownership. Twin Cities Habitat is one of the highest-regarded Habitat for Humanity affiliates nationwide.

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