It took nearly 10 years, but the Abbott Apartments are open and more than half leased at 110 E. 18th St.
“These are moderately priced compared to so-called luxury units,” said developer Swami Palanisami. “But there is no difference in my mind between luxury versus what we offer.”
The 123-unit renovation includes underground parking, bike storage, a fitness room, and a lobby with pieces that recall the building’s history as Abbott Hospital.
Palanisami said he finds it ironic that the founding Dr. Amos Abbott, like him, immigrated from India.
“There are a lot of big jobs in this town for someone who came here as an immigrant,” Palanisami said.
The engineer is consulting on the Vikings Stadium and recently completed work on the Target Field Station opening in May. Palanisami said he is particularly proud of his work on the Spectrum Commerce Center in Eagan, which is built from pieces of the airport’s demolished car rental facility.
“It’s one of the largest recycled buildings in the United States,” he said.
The Stevens Square project morphed from a 23-story tower proposed in 2005 to a smaller condo project — halted by the slowdown in the condo market — to 125 apartments proposed in 2008.
The building had been vacant since 2005, when the City of Lakes assisted living home closed. Neighbors said the empty site became a magnet for squatters and drug activity, and said the Minneapolis Police Department stopped using the building as a K-9 training facility, citing concern for the dogs’ safety.
The development team spent thousands in attempts to board up and secure the site.
In order to move forward with development, Palanisami nominated the building to the National Register of Historic Places and secured historic tax credits, environmental remediation funds, affordable housing trust funds and tax increment financing.
“This is a good thing,” Palanisami said. “I will remember it for a while. … Hopefully it will be financially viable down the road — we didn’t take any developer’s fee.”
Jerry Thompson carried groceries into his new apartment on a recent April afternoon. He said he was fortunate to land one of the project’s 25 affordable Section 8 units, after living in a shelter for eight years. He said he was impressed with the new appliances and updates.
“It’s a really nice place,” he said.