Above: WSCO Executive Director Monica Bravo joined developers Schafer Richardson, Councilmember Rebecca Noecker, and Mayor Melvin Carter at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new development that will include deeply affordable housing on the West Side.
On November 14, 2022, we celebrated the groundbreaking of a new multi-use development called Soul Apartments at the intersection of Robert Street and Plato Boulevard. “This is a gateway development as you enter the West Side neighborhood, and it is important that this project reflects the unique and culturally rich neighborhood we live in,” said Monica Bravo, our Executive Director here at the West Side Community Organization (WSCO).
At WSCO, we envision a just and joyful neighborhood where new development and wealth creation benefit all West Siders – no matter what we look like or where we come from. In this neighborhood, all West Siders have access to affordable, quality housing; opportunities to build wealth; transportation; and a healthy environment.
“We often hear that it's impossible to build with deep affordability,” noted Bravo, “but this project demonstrates that it can be done. The question is never ‘Can we do it?’ but rather
‘How can we do it?’” WSCO worked with the developers, Schafer Richardson, to secure a 40-year commitment to maintaining affordable units, as well as guarantees that they will partner with us to include public art created by local artists and commercial spaces for local businesses.
Kai Andersen (pictured, left) WSCO’s Equitable Development Director, in conversation with community on Saint Paul’s West Side
The public art on this development “will create a welcoming pathway that can help connect the many parts of our community,” said Kai Andersen, WSCO’s Equitable Development Director. Andersen also noted the importance of recognizing the history of the West Side Flats, an area of the neighborhood that was home to diverse groups of immigrants who were forced by the City to relocate and make way for an industrial park. “It is crucial that we lift up the stories of Black, Indigeneous, and People of Color as we build power, reclaim space, and engage in decision making around land use in our community.”
Above: 176 S. Robert Street was previously the site of the Red Cross (left). The land will be redeveloped into Soul Apartments (pictured in an artist's rendering on the right).
Housing and commercial developments like this don’t happen overnight, and this project is the result of long-term organizing by West Siders to push for more equitable development, and collaboration with the developer and the City of Saint Paul. West Siders from our Equitable Development Scorecard team and our Voices membership approved a letter of support for the project after we ensured that neighbors had opportunities to learn about the project, ask questions of the developers, and push for improvements.
Specifically, this project will include:
- 178 total housing units
- 23 three-bedroom units and 12 four-bedroom units (for a total of 35 units) affordable to families with income at 30% AMI
- 143 one-, two- and three-bedroom units restricted to households with income at 60% AMI or lower
- Long-term commitment to maintain affordability: 35 units will remain affordable to families at 30% AMI for 30 years, all 178 units will be restricted to households at 60% AMI or lower for 40 years
- Commercial spaces for local anchor businesses that have strong connections to the West Side
- Solar roofs to reduce environmental impact and utility expenses for renters
- Green space for public gathering around the building
- New public art centering the history of the West Side Flats and BIPOC stories
We look forward to continuing to organize for equitable development in our neighborhood, and invite you to join us! Learn more about our work at https://www.wsco.org/equitable_development.