As Aron Johnson, associate at Twin Cities architectural firm DJR, explains it, the development team behind ALVERA recognized that the seven-story apartment complex on West Seventh Street in St. Paul was going to be a highly visible landmark in the bustling area near the Xcel Energy Center and the hospitality establishments that surround it.
“You’re going to see it loud and proud, so it better act as a point of entry to the city of St. Paul,” Johnson said.
Loud and proud it is. The seven-story structure, which is the largest modular construction project ever built in the state, catches the eye immediately. An exterior mural featuring visual artist Aaron de la Cruz’s signature freehand linework wraps around the exterior of floors two to seven.
Rise Modular manufactured most of the project’s studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments in its Owatonna factory. The units, with drywall, cabinets and all finishes in place, were shipped to St. Paul and stacked like Legos, Johnson said.
Adding to the uniqueness of the project is the narrow tract of land the building sits on. The lot, which is approximately 72 feet wide and 360 feet long, was previously the home of Bonfe’s Mechanical Service Center.
In addition to expansive lobbies on both Seventh Street and Smith Avenue, shared space includes a penthouse club room with an entertainment kitchen and bar, breakout areas for remote workers, and a sweeping outdoor deck with a panoramic view, a fire pit and grills. Residents also have an on-site fitness center.
The site’s limited space made standard underground parking impractical. Developers maximized the vertical space available by creating St. Paul’s first self-automated parking stacker, which provides 110 covered parking spaces using only 33% of the space typically required.
Also very meaningful to the development is the number of artful demonstrations that it presents. Beyond the aforementioned mural, the space features a public facing art gallery, main lobby mural wall, nine exterior mural panels, and most significantly an artist-in-residence program that is currently hosting two artists.
Johnson and Marc Basara, development manager at project developer Ackerberg, both expressed pride at being able to fit so many apartment units into a tight urban space — and to offer them at monthly rates of just over $1,000.
“We pushed to see how high we could get that density and deliver on our aim to be a part of a solution in the current housing crisis,” Johnson said.
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