Small affordable apartment pitched in Whittier

A small affordable apartment building could be coming to a mostly vacant lot at 2520 Grand Ave. in Whittier.

Developer Steve Hornig is asking the community for input on whether he should build a six-unit apartment with three levels of one-bedrooms or if he should go with a 10-unit building with two levels of 500-square-foot studios. The one-bedroom plan would come with about four parking spots, while the studio option would have a bike room and fewer parking spaces.

“I’m flexible about which road to go,” Hornig told the Whittier Alliance’s housing committee on July 16.

He said he intends to make the building entirely affordable to households making less than 60% of the area median income, meaning rents would be $1,050 per month for studios or $1,125 for one-bedrooms. This makes the property eligible for property tax reductions under the city’s 4D Affordable Housing Incentive Program.

Hornig said he is also undecided about whether the building should take on a modern flat-roof aesthetic with metal panels and lap siding or if he should use a “big house concept” with a hip roof and a front porch. 

Whittier residents at the July 16 meeting did not express a clear preference for either the six- or 10-unit option, but they voted 14–0 in favor of the big house concept.

A small garage would be demolished to make way for the proposed apartment, which would rise on what architect William Wells called a “really big curb cut.” The 2520 Grand plot is currently used as a driveway for two three-level apartment buildings Hornig owns directly to the north. The parking lot for those buildings would still be accessible via another driveway.

The site is currently zoned R2, a low-density two-family district. But under the Minneapolis 2040 zoning plan, yet to be approved by the Metropolitan Council, the site would allow for three-story buildings. 

City staff have been supportive of the “very preliminary” proposal, Wells said, and Hornig plans to present a formal plan to the city in October.