Upgrades to two apartment complexes in Anoka have enhanced the community with upticks to affordable housing, aesthetics and public safety.

ANOKA, MN, February 26, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — In early 2018, two Anoka apartment complexes –one on 7th Avenue and the other on Branch Avenue– sat several miles apart but their similarities were unmistakable. Each over 30 years old, their crumbling parking lots and dated appearance told a story from the outside that was only confirmed once inside.

Years of deferred maintenance, water infiltration and disrepair had left many of the 61 total units uninhabitable and the rest less than desirable. Anoka Associate Planner and Code Enforcement Technician Clark Palmer says that his team received many angry tenant calls about the properties.

“We had issued many fix orders for non-compliance and were having issues getting the fixes addressed,” says Palmer, “these included some decks that were a real safety hazard.”

So when both properties were listed for sale by their owner in early last year, the city took a strong interest in the new buyers and their inevitable remodel efforts. Anoka planners wanted definitive action and a partner who could work to understand the unique issues involved at each location.

Engels Apartments on 7th

In stepped Coon Rapids-based Centra Homes, with a plan to rehab the 7th Avenue property and an affinity for working closely with cities like Anoka to ensure their work was a win for both developer and community alike.

Centra purchased the property on 7th and outlined an aggressive approach to address all aspects of the 36-unit complex. The exterior plans called for work on siding, roof, decks and the parking lot.

Inside, Centra planned an ambitious overhaul of each of the one and two-bedroom units along with the common areas. This would include plumbing and electric and culminate with finishes for individual apartments and upgrades to security and laundry facilities.

“The 7th Avenue property was shaping up to be what we affectionately refer to as a ‘complete gut job’,” says Centra President Dale Wills.

With such a large scale remodel plan covering so many issues, Centra had to partner with current residents on individual relocation plans prior to taking action. Thus began a program that included rent forgiveness and a refund of damage deposits in order to give existing renters the resources needed to secure a new residence.

“We ended up working case-by-case to help those families facing displacement. This took a great deal of community engagement to find resources and programs that fit. I’m proud to say we ultimately found a solution for all who were impacted,” says Wills.

Following implementation of the plan for existing residents, the remodel on the now-vacant building began last June.

“The city of Anoka was incredibly accommodating in helping us understand all the challenges that came with the 7th avenue property, fast-tracking permit approvals and other needed components”
—Dale Wills, Centra Homes Founder and President

The upgrades to the complex continued through the fall with an October resurfacing of the exterior parking serving as a capstone for Centra’s work.

“Centra took some dated weathered building and put some significant investment in, they were nice people to work with and they’ve done a great job.”
— Clark Palmer, Associate Planner/Code Enforcement Technician, City of Anoka

The project received so much positive attention that Centra was asked to consider taking on the 25-unit Branch Avenue property as well. Centra saw the similarities between the two and the potential of the Branch Avenue site and agreed.

“We received great feedback on the quality of the work and the care taken with the existing residents on 7th and it made the Branch Avenue property a natural next project for us.”
—Dale Wills, Centra Homes Founder and President

Branch Avenue Apartments

Following closing of the Branch sale, a similar relocation program began for residents. Once the building was vacant, the work truly began for Centra. Wills says that ironically while the Branch complex was over a decade newer than the building on 7th, the challenges proved even greater.

“While the exterior of the Branch location was brick and therefore in better condition, the interior was in need of a great deal more TLC,” says Wills.

In early September the Centra team got to work. Exterior upgrades to the roof began along with plumbing and electrical work and a rebuild of the interior space for each of the 25 units.

Work continues today but the finish line is in sight. Wills says he expects individual units in the reimagined building to be available for rent later in February.

A Strong Partnership

These two projects highlight how proactive communities like Anoka collaborate with private developers like Centra Homes to help solve problem parcels and enhance communities. Whereas aggressive urban renewal projects typically involve large government intervention, condemned properties and significant public expense, city planners in Anoka preferred to take an alternate path.

By partnering with Centra homes they were able to address two key distressed properties while avoiding some significant pitfalls and expense. The net result is safer neighborhoods, better aesthetics and the ability to convert problem parcels into tax revenue-producing success stories.

“We enjoy reinvesting in the communities where we live and work.
Anoka planners couldn’t have been more helpful on these projects
and the results speak for themselves”

—Dale Wills, Centra Homes Founder and President


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