Development of Blu on Broadway may be test case for market

The decision by the Minot Planning Commission Monday night to support and pass on to the Minot City Council plans for the mixed-use project known as Blu on Broadway might be an interesting test case for the state of development in the immediate area.

Based on the number of building permits pulled and the amount of residential development in Minot, many are skeptical of the prospects for residential development in the city – particularly when it comes to the construction of affordable housing with a public investment. After all, some have opined, if the private sector doesn’t see the potential return on investment for such development, how is it that subsidized development is headed to a positive outcome?

While the planned development is under consideration for up to $4.75 million from the city’s National Disaster Resilience grant program, the plans still call for considerable private sector investment. Developer, EPIC Companies is seeking a Planned United Development for a mixed-use building at 1629 South Broadway. Ground-level commercial office space of about 8,800 square feet would have four floors with 42 residential apartments above it. The units range from studio apartments to two bedroom and plans call for an underground parking garage in addition to surface level parking. The project is under consideration for NDR investment because the units are planned as affordable housing.

Even when public sector investment is on the table, private sector developers don’t pursue projects without market demand. They aren’t in the business of losing money and they examine the market supply and demand before making decisions.

EPIC Companies’ interest in the project must demonstrate what some in Minot realize, that there is a need for affordable housing even this many years out from the 2011 flood and the Bakken boom, both of which drove up the cost of real estate acquisitions and rentals.

Assuming the project goes through and reaches fruition, it might be a sign that there is enough demand to spur additional, private sector development.

Let the market then respond to need and desire, as is its wont.

Perhaps Blu on Broadway may prompt a shift in the market.

Perhaps it won’t.

It will be an important test case, in either event.