Construction finally starts at 208 Bates

Marjorie Otto/Review • Construction has finally started on 208 Bates Ave., a historic apartment building in Dayton’s Bluff. The building was a part of the 2016 Vacant Home Tour that was organized by Dayton’s Bluff neighbors to save historic buildings from being torn down.

Marjorie Otto/Review • The building is owned by a co-owner of the former Ward 6 restaurant and has been completely gutted due to water issues. The next steps are to put on a new roof and fix storm water drainage issues.

file photo • When all is said and done, the building will have four apartments that will be considered affordable housing.

Just over two years ago, six Dayton’s Bluff homes were in the shadow of the wrecking ball. To prevent the destruction of the historic structures, the community rallied together to highlight the homes with hopes that developers would fix them up. 

Most of the homes have either been fixed and sold or are in the process of renovation. Now, the small apartment building at 208 Bates Ave. is the last of those homes to start the revitalization process. 


Some things take time

The building is owned by a co-owner of the former Ward 6 restaurant, Eric Foster. In a previous Review article about the building, Foster said he and his daughter first saw the 133-year-old building during the April 2016 Vacant Home Tour. 

Foster and his family live just a few blocks from 208 Bates Ave., and he has been working since October 2016 to get started on construction. At that point two years ago, he said he was hoping to get the building whipped into shape and to start renting out its apartments in six months. 

Two years later, the building has only just been gutted, and some serious storm water rehabilitation needs to take place. 

“Everything took longer than we hoped or expected — from processes with the city and the state on historic preservation, to environmental testing, to budget revisions, to legal work, to bank processes,” Foster said. “This project has a lot of moving parts and often each thing has to be done sequentially, so it’s hard to move it along expeditiously.” 

The apartment building is located within the Dayton’s Bluff Historic District, meaning that in addition to regular permitting and site plan reviews, construction plans also need to be reviewed by historic preservation agencies. 

It’s also situated at the bottom of a hill, and everytime it rained, the building would flood. The building has been vacant since 2002, and the roof is in less-than decent shape, creating water and mold problems that add to the work needing to take place. 

During a recent visit to the structure, Flannery Construction President Jamey Flannery said that now that the building has been gutted, structural engineers are assessing the integrity of support structures and making plans to get a new roof on it.

Flannery said once the building is watertight, workers can move onto more substantial and noticeable renovation work. 

When it’s all done, the building will have four units — two upstairs and two downstairs. Foster said the project will cost just more than $1 million and while it’s hard to pin down a good time frame, he is hoping to get the building up and rentable in six months. 

Foster bought the building from the city for $1 and was paid a value-gap subsidy of $600,000 by the city to renovate the building. 

As part of the purchase agreement with the city, Foster said the apartments must be considered affordable housing for the next 15 years, meaning rent rates will be priced at 70 percent of the area median income. He said he is projecting rent to be less than 60 percent of the area median income, making the units more affordable than required. 


Partners in renovations

Foster has partnered with Historic St. Paul, a nonprofit that works to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of St. Paul neighborhoods. 

The organization is serving as a project management consultant for the project, helping with the paperwork and logistics of construction. 

Historic St. Paul has helped with renovations of many buildings in St. Paul, including some that were on the Vacant Home Tour. 

The organization’s executive director, Carol Carey, lives in Dayton’s Bluff and helped with the rehabilitation of the Stutzman Building along East Seventh Street where Swede Hollow Cafe is located. 

She said it’s great that a local resident invested in the building because bigger organizations, like professional developers, probably wouldn’t take on the rehabilitation of a small apartment building due to the small returns. 

She added that local investors also have a better feel for the neighborhood and what it needs. 


Working class history

208 Bates Ave., which is known in the neighborhood as the Schacht Building, was constructed in 1885 as a storefront with apartments upstairs.

The building is located in what had been a commercial district years ago, when Hudson Road was the main road to Wisconsin before Interstate 94 was built.

“One of the coolest things about the Dayton’s Bluff Historic District is that it’s one of the only historic districts in the country that was a working class neighborhood,” Foster said. “Buildings like this one reflect that working class history — this was never a ‘fancy’ building and won’t be when it’s done, but it was and will be beautiful in its own way, and highly functional.”

Carey said it’s important to save old structures, especially in a historically working class neighborhood like Dayton’s Bluff, because such buildings “reflect a history and the stories of the people who have built, lived in and contributed to neighborhoods in the past.”

She said the buildings also reflect the materials and craftsmanship from their time periods, which adds to the character of the neighborhood and can’t be replicated with new construction.

“I think reinforcing the quality of housing stock and character of the neighborhood will contribute to investment on the East Side,” Carey said.

Foster agreed that the building’s transformation will likely benefit the neighborhood overall.

“As an Eastsider,” said Foster, “I’m excited to turn a building that is more or less an eyesore into a beautiful, contributing part of my neighborhood, and to offer affordable housing units at a time when so many people need high-quality housing.”


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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