Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Apartments popping up all over Faribault, plus a new park May 17, 2022

Traffic curves past Straight River Apartments, under construction along First Avenue Northeast in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)

FOR MORE THAN A YEAR now, I’ve observed construction of a new apartment complex near downtown Faribault next to an in-progress city park.

Another view of Straight River Apartments, northeast side. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)

Straight River Apartments stand on the site of a former massive city garage, just north of the American Legion and aside train tracks tracing the Straight River. Fleckenstein Bluffs Park is adjacent. Both are definitely improvements to the properties.

The sprawling nature-themed playground fits the setting along the Straight River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)
Animals, like this chipmunk, are incorporated into the playground equipment, following the nature theme. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)
The climbing apparatus at Fleckenstein Bluffs by Straight River Apartments. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)

As I’ve watched developments on this land, I’ve considered how the apartment location will connect renters to nature and downtown. Renters will not only benefit from the next-door park, complete with nature-themed playground, picnic shelter and scenic overlook over the Straight River, but will also have direct access to the Straight River Trail.

A view of the Straight River and the train track crossing, photographed from the Straight River Trail. This scene is by Fleckenstein Bluffs Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
A river overlook at Fleckenstein Bluffs was fenced during my visits. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
A short distance from the park, just off the Straight River Trail, a pathway leads to this opening in the woods along the river. There’s a picnic table in this space. Rocks were hauled in and placed along the river bank. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Just a short walk, jog or bike ride away along the trail, those who live here can immerse themselves in woods and sidetrack off the paved route to river’s edge for a picnic, to meander or to fish. I thought a canoe and kayak launch were also part of the park plan, but see no indication that will happen.

Photographed in mid-March as workers work on Straight River Apartments. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Meanwhile, construction continues with an anticipated August opening of the 111-unit “boutique and high-tech apartment complex,” according to INH Properties. Apartment rental prices range from $925/month studio to two-bedroom two-bath plus den starting at $1,500/month. I’ve been out of the apartment market for decades, so rates seem high to me for Faribault. Yet, I realize that’s the going market rate in a community with a rental housing shortage.

A north end view of Straight River Apartments. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)

Faribault is seeing a bit of a boom in apartment building construction. Other new complexes include Hillside Apartments across from Buckham Center and The Lofts at Evergreen Knoll on the site of the former Evergreen Knoll restaurant near Walmart.

The restrooms and park shelter being built at Fleckenstein Bluffs Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)

Plans are also underway to build a 74-unit apartment near the viaduct, just blocks from my Willow Street home. And then even further along Willow, near the Faribault Soccer Complex and Middle School, developers are planning a 200-250 unit apartment complex. All of this new housing will bring even more traffic to my already heavily-traveled city street. And I’m not feeling at all good about that. More traffic equals more noise, more wear and tear on my street. More litter. More pollution.

No matter my concerns about more traffic past my house, the construction of new apartment buildings in Faribault is a good thing for those in need of rental housing. Our growing workforce demands local housing access. At least one Faribault business, C & S Vending, is planning workforce housing of three 12-plexes and one 8-plex. I’m sure there are other projects I’m missing in this summary.

At the Fleckenstein Bluffs Park, a xylophone, among several large scale musical instruments. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo late April 2022)

We are a growing community. We need rental housing and affordable single family homes and nearby parks. (A new, community-centered park is also planned near the viaduct.) Come August, a whole lot more people will be living near downtown Faribault as Straight River Apartments open. Now we need to focus also on making home ownership available and affordable, if that’s even possible given the tight market and cost of new construction today…

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “Apartments popping up all over Faribault, plus a new park”

  1. beth Says:

    glad for a such a positive build and I love the location

    • Being next to a park, the river and a trail certainly are location assets. Next to a train track and busy street, not so much. But I also realize apartments today are likely much more soundproof than those of old.

  2. Valerie Says:

    There are a lot of apartments going up in Northfield too.
    It will be fun to check out that new park.

  3. Rental prices are crazy everywhere. I was looking at prices in the cities awhile ago (just entrainment, not seriously) and couldn’t believe how expensive rentals had gotten. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone on a fixed or middle class or income makes it anymore. I can totally understand your concerns with the traffic and upkeep on your city street.

  4. Ruth Says:

    That climbing apparatus will be a happy meeting place for the children.

    • I expect the playground will be a popular spot for any children who move into the apartments. I want to take my grandchildren here to play because I love the animals hiding in the playground. That is all except the mouse.

  5. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    What a beautiful park….I think I see two little grands running around there this summer 🙂

  6. Housing is incredibly hard to find and high priced around here too. Good to see new apartments going up so close to parks.

  7. Sandra Says:

    “Affordable”. A catch-all word when more won’t fit a news column. This is a town whose population used to be described based on when the schools were in/out of session. Official totals haven’t varied much since I moved in the 60s. Won’t waste space describing what’s happening here, your traffic concerns are legitimate. So, nice Willow St. will need widening? I’d be concerned about the river. People means pollution which means more infrastructure to clean it up. The town has expanded in all directions, now it’s the east and a peaceful river that’s flowed beautifully along, is being invaded. The Straight River Trail is glorious. The business development north from the viaduct seems manageable. I used to walk past the mill, it was safe and easy for a 9th grader. 4 more blocks, I was in school. Been reading about all the changes, think have to weigh in on those feeling not-so-good. Be there in a couple weeks. After checking Meadow Ridge and the SSM reunion, will make a point of driving around. Thanks for the visual tour. Any hope that apartment building will blend more with the natural setting? Oh, this burb has a 3 b.r. town home renting for $1500, 2 b.r. apts well under a thousand. In the metro!

    • It’s interesting to read your take on Faribault as someone who grew up here. Personally, I like the look of the new apartment complex along the Straight River. It’s much more appealing than the former city garage. I do hold your concerns, though, about possible flooding as these areas along the river have previously flooded.

      As far as Willow, I’d like to see another route that motorists can take through town. There are no plans to widen the street and no space to do so. I’d have traffic practically driving through my living room. I would like traffic to slow down, for noise ordinances to be enforced, for the city to do something about junk vehicles cluttering yards, etc. I’m frustrated when nothing happens despite concerns voiced.

  8. Gunny Says:

    High Density Housing – aside from paint, still looks like high density housing which means pollution and high traffic concentrations. It also means government subsidized housing which means some tenants do not pay the full freight of the cost to live there. The taxpayer makes of the difference. Nice area, but I would not look for “improvements over the next 10 years.

    • Our community is desperately in need of rental housing. Single family homes for sale are in short supply. The apartment featured here is a market rate apartment complex, not subsidized housing. That said, I personally have no issue with subsidized housing. Wages here are not necessarily high enough for people to afford rental housing without some assistance. It’s an unfortunate reality and inflation is only enhancing the challenges the lower to middle working class face today. Those of us who fit that category are often just one crisis away from needing help. There’s such a disparity in what people are paid for the work they do.

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