Middle school housing project starts

Emerson Union will expand range of housing options

Staff photo by Fritz Busch A groundbreaking ceremony for the Emerson Union apartment project will be held on Jan. 30 at 3:30 p.m.

NEW ULM — Rehabilitation efforts have begun to convert the former New Ulm middle school building, recently renamed “Emerson Union,” into apartments, after the closing of the financing last month on Dec. 21, according to a press release from the developer.

Community Housing Development Corporation, a Minneapolis-based non-profit developer, has been working since August 2016 with New Ulm community leaders, elected officials and city staff on a plan to preserve the nearly century-old building and create housing for moderate-income households.

The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed in 1915, with later additions in 1938 and 1955. It served as a school until 2005 and then housed administrative offices for the school district.

With the exception of the former school auditorium space, which houses the State Street Theater Co, the building has been vacant since August 2016.

The construction project will provide 49 affordable apartments, plus common areas, a resource room and other amenities. All 49 units will be affordable to households earning 60 percent or less of the Area Median Income.

The project was one of four priority projects identified by the New Ulm Housing Needs Initiative Task Force, a group convened to cooperatively plan for the creation of new workforce housing in New Ulm.

Like many cities, New Ulm has seen steady erosion of affordable housing supply as properties that were originally developed using federal subsidies have been converted to market-rate housing.

The task force concluded that increasing affordable housing will aid local employers’ efforts to recruit and retain workers.

“Emerson Union is the result of a strong public/private partnership, bringing over $10 million in private equity through federal and state tax credit investments, in partnership with the City of New Ulm, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and Greater Minnesota Housing Fund” said Heidi Rathmann, senior vice president at CHDC. “The project meets a critical housing need and will preserve and reuse a unique community asset in the heart of New Ulm.”

The rehabilitation is expected to take 12 months and will include a separation of utilities between the State Street Theater and Emerson Union. Lease up of the building will begin in early 2020.

Community Housing Development Corporation is a leading Minnesota affordable housing developer, specializing in fulfilling the affordable housing goals of neighborhoods, communities, and nonprofit organizations. CHDC owns and operates 44 properties that provide housing for more than 5,000 residents.

A groundbreaking ceremony is expected to be held on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 3:30 p.m.