Analysis Military

Historic Fort Snelling to be converted to affordable veteran housing

A November deal between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Dominium, a private property development company, will convert 26 buildings in historic Fort Snelling’s Upper Post to 176 units of affordable housing, set to open in 2021, and give preference to veterans and their families. Named the Upper Post Flats, this landmark deal will alleviate the growing need for affordable housing in Minnesota and give support to the local veteran community.

Located at the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, land for the fort was originally purchased from the Sioux Nation in 1805. Following the War of 1812, the War Department built a chain of forts to protect the northwestern territories from British and Canadian encroachment. Fort Snelling was originally named Fort Saint Anthony, and renamed Fort Snelling in 1825 when fully completed, after its original commander and architect, Colonel Josiah Snelling.


Watercolor painting of Fort Snelling, c.1844. Painting by John Casper Wild.

Dred Scott lived and worked at Fort Snelling during the 1830’s. Scott was originally bought in Missouri by an Army officer. When Scott was returned to Missouri, he sued for his freedom — slavery was illegal in Minnesota under the Missouri Compromise, and he was therefore held illegally. In a landmark 1857 Supreme Court decision, it was found that African Americans had no standing under the Constitution, a decision which heightened tensions on the eve of the Civil War. Fort Snelling was also an internment camp for Dakota prisoners during the Dakota War of 1862, where hundreds died due to harsh conditions and disease.

Fort Snelling was a training depot and point of departure for thousands of Minnesotan soldiers during the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and both World Wars. During World War II, the Upper Post was home the Japanese language school for the entire U.S. Army.

Fort Snelling has since been home to Army Reserve Units, and is home to a national cemetery. It has functioned as a park and historical site since 1971, when the Minnesota DNR took possession of the land as part of the government’s Federal Lands to Parks Program.

The Upper Post Barracks that will be the future site of the Upper Post Flats.

Affordable housing is commonly thought of as a crisis in the Twin Cities. With Millennials coming of age and seeking homes in the city rather than the suburbs, the number of households outpaces the number of homes by 2%, resulting in record low vacancies and skyrocketing rent and home prices. Only San Francisco and Atlanta have seen household to home growth disparities that are greater than that rate in the years since 2010. Minnesota needs affordable housing.

Pressure to solve the problem has been high during the summer of 2018, as a homeless encampment in Minneapolis has attracted attention to the housing and homeless crisis in Minnesota. Early in the summer, a homeless family pitched a tent in a visible area of town. It soon attracted others who found safety in numbers, growing to over 70 tents and at least 120 people by August. The encampment is often seen as a direct result of the housing market, as well as the lack of drug and mental health treatment, and authorities fear more and more of these occurrences as the problems worsen, as is seen on the West Coast. The encampment has brought problems such as public health, sanitation, and school attendance issues for children — problems typical of cities, which the camp has begun to resemble.

The Fort Snelling property is the latest in a growing number of affordable housing projects in the Twin Cities aimed at addressing the issues caused by lack of housing. It is the first to specifically attempt to provide for veterans, a group that remains overrepresented in the homeless population.

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Susan B
Member

Seems like a great idea to utilize the property in such a way. I’m glad they are giving veterans priority. I hope they stick to that. Also, I hope they provide some type of temporary housing for homeless veterans with the services necessary to get back on their feet. A lot of areas are building the “tiny houses” communities for homeless veterans and other homeless. It gives them a leg up to get back into the mainstream again. Thanks for the article, Tyler.

Mason
Member
Mason

Test comment, will update, sorry to use this as my first post, having technical issues, wondering it date range is the issue.

Theo Dyssean

Mason! Glad you made it over the the Freq-side.

Sorry about the comments glitchage. New commenters have to be approved. I just done approved ya!

Mason
Member
Mason

Thanks Theo (Odyssean)! I thought maybe I was doing something wrong. Glad to be here! To this article, I think it is creative and innovative to help veterans and other folks in need to convert unused barracks or other military facilities into affordable housing. I am a big proponent of “barracks style” housing to solve all kinds of issues, but that is a story for another day.

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

I was in Minneapolis for the first time in August. The Uber driver that drove me to the airport did mention the homelessness problem. I also saw a number of homeless sleeping in the sky-walks. Thank you for the informative article. Anything that can help our homeless veterans is a good thing.

georgehand
Member

It is encouraging to sit and read an article such as this with my morning coffee, this rather than news of Marines dying in an air incident stateside… Lord, I do hate it so.
Thanks brother,
geo sends

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