After years of preparation, City Center Apartments ready to open

Staff photos by Clay Schuldt The City Center Apartment project nears completion. Though the building is outside the Downtown Historic District, it was built to match the design of other buildings on Minnesota Street.

NEW ULM — After nearly five years of planning and redesigning the City Center Apartments on Minnesota Street will welcome tenants in their new homes next week.

Project developer Jim Kretsch has been working to build these apartments for the last several years. The process has required working with the city for TIF approval, remediation of the soil, finance work and the demolition of two condemned houses before the ground was ever broken for construction.

“It just takes time,” Kretsch said.

The building is an age-qualified apartment. Residents must be 55 or older to apply for one of the 37 apartments. The units come in nine different layouts with options for 1 bedroom, 2 bedrooms or 3 bedroom units. At this time 20 of the units are spoken for and Kretsch anticipates the move-in dates the end of August.

The ground floor apartments facing Minnesota Street all feature private access. Residents living in these apartments can come and go without needing to move through the lobby.

Chief Developer Jim Kretsch admires the view of Minnesota Street from a top floor balcony.

The apartments on the second and third floor each have decks offering a grand view of the surroundings. Those on the Minnesota Street side have one of the best views of downtown New Ulm available. The units on the opposite side of the building will have a view of the Minnesota River Valley and backyard gardens.

Behind the apartment building will be green space with room for BBQs, a fire pit and even a workshop for woodworking.

Construction crews have already begun seeding the grounds. By next spring the apartments should have an impressive lawn.

The idea is to create a community for the senior residents who want to remain active.

“What we are trying to do is build a community,” Kretsch said. The apartment will include many amenities for residents including bocce ball and pickle ball courts. The idea is to cater to the active senior lifestyle.

The kitchen units were created by a Finnish designers. The cabinetry is made from recycled materials. City Center Apartments were created to be Eco-Friendly.

“You can’t sit in a corner alone or you’ll really age,” Kretsch said. “That’s why we have a place with as many activities.”

Other amenities to be added later include raised-bed gardens, a large outdoor deck, fire pit and grilling area and a children’s play area. Of course, the top feature with real estate is location, location, location and downtown New Ulm is hard to beat.

The City Center Apartments are located within walking distance of dozens of New Ulm features. There are five churches within five blocks, Turner Hall is a few blocks away, German Park is a few blocks the other direction, the Post Office is half a block, the movie theater is just down the road and several restaurants are on the same street and the American Legion.

“Its about as convenient as you can get,” Kretsch said.

The City Center Apartments have been on the rise for 10 months. Anyone traveling on Minnesota Street has seen the work in progress, but few realize the plans for the apartment building goes back five years.

In October 2017, the work of clearing the site for construction began.

The city initially sold the lot for the apartment project in March 2013.

In June 2013, the Planning Commission granted a permit to build an apartment complex on the block of Minnesota Street between 1st South Street and 2nd South Street. From this early stage the apartments were intended as age-restricted units to take advantage of the wave of retiring baby boomers.

In 2014, a crew began drilling four ground water wells for the purpose of detecting hazardous chemicals. The testing was needed since a dry cleaning business was previously on the site. Following the testing, remediation work was necessary before the project could move forward.

In early Oct. 2017, work crews began clearing trees from the site in anticipation of construction. The foundation was dug on Oct. 14 with the goal of placing walls before the first freeze. Crews were successful in laying the ground floor and the building began to grow all through the winter.

From street level the project looks impressive, but it is even more impressive on the inside. A lot of the work was done underground. The apartment contains a 37-stall garage underneath the building.

Construction continued throughout the winter on the Center Street Apartments.

The project has even incorporated the old Oswald garage located next door. Crews were able to punch a hole through the basement concrete and connect the two structures. Right now the Oswald building is serving as storage for the construction crews, but their are several options for the future.

Kretsch said a part of it will be used as an activity center and include gym equipment, but it could also serve as a loft apartment. He decided to keep the Oswald building because upon inspection it proved in better condition than initially thought. The poured-in-concrete walls and floor are not showing any cracking.

The City Center Apartments is one of the largest construction projects in downtown New Ulm and it will have a long lasting affect on the community.

“We’re trying to repeat New Ulm’s stories,” Kretsch said. “The apartments are outside the historical district but we wanted to blend in. The colors of the building were approved by the historical committee.

In addition to changing the physical look of Minnesota Street, the project will bring in dozens of permanent residents who will become regulars in the downtown district.

All that remains for the projects is a couple of inspections and residents can move into their apartments. Kretsch estimates the move-ins will start next week.

“Hopefully we are a stimulus for the city core,” Kretsch said. “This will help revitalize downtown.”

Since those moving into the apartments are expected to be downsizing senior, the hope is The City Center Apartments will open up new homes throughout New Ulm for younger families looking to buy a house. The need for housing is vital concern in New Ulm and this project will help make that a possibility.