Richfield officials worry potential apartment sale could displace more families

A year and a half after the sale of Crossroads at Penn Apartments displaced hundreds of low-income families, the Richfield community is reacting to the prospect that another large apartment complex could change hands with a similar result.

Seasons Park Apartments, a 422-unit complex in southeastern Richfield, is rumored to be the subject of a purchase agreement, Richfield Schools Superintendent Steve Unowsky announced during an April 17 Richfield School Board Meeting.

After the Crossroads at Penn apartments across town were sold in September 2015, low-income tenants were displaced due to policy changes and increased rent at the now-renovated complex. Apartment residents included 142 Richfield Public Schools students, according to the district.

The district has stressed it took a financial hit due to the loss of per pupil revenue due to the sale of Crossroads, which was rebranded as Concierge Apartments. Now, school and city leaders are worried about a repeat occurrence at Seasons Park, formerly Buena Vista Apartments.

Seasons Park houses 296 school-age children, 237 of which attend Richfield Public Schools, according to Unowsky. School Boardmember Tim Pollis did the math on the potential fallout should the complex receive the same treatment as Crossroads.

“If we lost 100 students, we would be roughly a million dollars or so over budget, just right out of the gate,” Pollis said.

Richfield City Councilmembers Maria Regan Gonzalez and Michael Howard have been working with the school district to address the concern, along with affordable housing management agency Aeon. That agency, which works to preserve affordable housing, said it would issue a counter-offer for Seasons Park, according to Regan Gonzalez, whose ward includes the property.

“When we heard of that we were very excited,” she said in an interview with the Sun Current. Regan Gonzalez and Howard signed a letter of support for Aeon’s potential purchase of the property.

“I have deep concern about any sale that will result in mass displacement of our families and children,” Howard, Richfield’s at-large council member, said in an email to the Sun Current. “Some of our lowest-income residents live at Seasons Park, and they do not have a voice in potential real estate dealings that could drastically impact their lives.”

Additionally, all Richfield School Board members signed another letter, addressed to the city council, explaining their alarm.

Aeon CEO Alan Arthur declined to discuss the details of his agency’s involvement with the property. Arthur, however, did say in an interview, “Certainly we are as concerned about any loss of affordable housing in the community as the city council members and everyone else in the community.”

Arthur and Regan Gonzalez said they didn’t know the identity of Seasons Park’s potential purchaser. But Unowsky stated during this week’s school board meeting that the rumored – “again, not able to be confirmed” – buyer is Soderberg Apartment Specialists, which bought and renovated Crossroads.

Soderberg Apartment Specialists did not return phone calls and an email from the Sun Current regarding Unowsky’s statement. The owner of Seasons Park, Forum Real Estate, also did not return a phone call from the newspaper regarding any potential sale.

More advanced warning possible?

Following the loss of students from the Crossroads sale, Unowsky met with Richfield Community Development Director John Stark and Regan Gonzalez, the council liaison to the school district, to open lines of communication regarding housing issues that could affect the district, the superintendent said.

But Unowsky said he did not hear about any potential sale until April 12, through a private citizen. “We set up ongoing regular meetings, and somehow this information was not shared,” Unowsky said.

In an interview with the Sun Current, Stark noted he had “some inkling something was going on with the property,” explaining he has “received phone calls off-and-on for the past six months” from appraisers, and similar calls, but “never from Seasons Park themselves or any potential buyers.”

He added that he contacted Soderberg two weeks ago. “I asked them point blank if they were purchasing that property, and their answer was that they weren’t in a position to report whether that was true or not,” Stark said.

He explained his department gets calls “every day” indicating that certain properties, including multi-family complexes, could be for sale.

Regarding Seasons Park, “When I heard kind of vague things I tried to track them down, and there wasn’t anything to substantiate” the information, Stark said.

Now, however, the city is publicly responding to the concerns of the school board and council members. The city council and Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority will address the affordable housing worries during a work session 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at the Richfield Municipal Center, 6700 Portland Ave.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter
@RISunCurrent.

  • lindalee soderstrom

    Soderberg was the alleged buyer and I think we best not protect his name. What kind of millionaires do we want in our Richfield? O yeah I forgot I don’t live there anymore. Who is following up on the (Ahem No Comment No Comment) Soderberg case with Crossroads? When cities cannot function to protect their own poor, Tenants themselves have options. We can organize and we DID organize. We are still in the throes of a class action top secret law suit. Lives have been damaged. Health has been impacted heavily to the negative. Children missed hours upon hours of schooling in the very attempts made to keep them in their cohort until they were essentially thrown out into the cold. In the case at hand ~ Costs are still out of control and I.m just talking about the legal bills. NO Tenants at Crossroads have been reimbursed for the costs of their displacement under duress and en masse. Federal relocation standards offer a formula for 42 months (3.5 years) of increased rent, increased utilities, and things like added mileage to work as well as initial moving costs like truck, movers, new apartment deposit to be paid by the displacing buyer. Check Chicago, New York, New Jersey. They cannot just dump people overboard for profit, must at least pay for the moves. Instead Mr Soderberg counted on Hennepin County emergency assistance to FUND HIS DISPLACED FAMILIES at $1,000 each for deposit and $500 each for moving truck. Estimating for the 700 households that’s 700,000.00 new apartment deposit dollars plus 350,000.00 for dep/truck. So yet another bonus for the buyer. Theoretically do we want our investors to flip properties, kiss and hug our mayors at the ribbon cuttings and count on a governmental agency to pay the cost caused by the flipper and incurred by the families? Well ~ Do We?