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The Rose

MSR (Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle)

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Aeon and Hope Community


  • Landscape Architect: Emmons O’Rourke and Associates
  • Mechanical Engineer: Karges-Faulconbridge
  • Structural Engineer: Meyer| Borgman| Johnson

Project Status


Year Completed



144,771 sq. feet

Construction Cost

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Project Description


The Rose is a high performance multi-family housing development in Minneapolis, MN. It contains 42 market rate and 48 affordable dwelling units for people earning less than 50% AMI (Area Median Income) including some efficiency apartments for formerly homeless individuals transitioning to independent living. There are one, two and three bedroom configurations that will enable a broad community of residents to live here. Residents will enjoy the 5,000-square-foot community garden and the 70-foot-wide courtyard between the two buildings – both spaces contain areas for play and socializing.

“The building has been designed using the Living Building Challenge (LBC) as a guide,” says Paul Mellblom, AIA, MSR Design’s Principal. “Available state tax credit and philanthropic funds do not come close to providing the cash required to fully meet LBC Certification – especially in our cold climate where systems are designed to meet a -22°F design temperature. But we have achieved significant compliance across the LBC Imperatives: we are at an EUI (Energy Use Intensity in kBTU/sf) of 27, and it was done for $148/sf.”

“Aeon and Hope Community told us to create replicable, ecologically responsible housing,” said Mellblom, “so we cut energy use by 75% from baseline, we will infiltrate 75% of stormwater onsite using rain gardens and cisterns, and we created a healthy living environment by employing a data-driven design process where every decision focused on cost-benefit to optimize our design solutions. We collaborated with Aeon’s consultant team (University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research, the Weidt Group, Questions and Solutions and Judd Allen Group) to make smart technical and performance based decisions. This was a big group effort where many people’s expertise improved the project in small and large ways.’

The Rose employs a high performance building envelope with simple, finely tuned shading/daylighting strategies that are repeatable on other affordable housing initiatives because they are inexpensive, perform well, and make the building beautiful (one of LBC’s seven Petals). With the investment by Aeon and Hope Community in a solar garden project in Minnesota, the project is aiming to achieve zero net energy status in a few years.

“We studied 23 wall types and had several meetings among the design team and Aeon’s consultants to find the right balance of dew point, constructability, controlling air infiltration, insulation type, cost and on and on,” according to Rhys MacPherson, Project Manager for MSR Design. “And we did this for many, many systems and material selections throughout the project.”

The Rose aims to be a model for other affordable housing developments. Gina Ciganik, former VP of Housing Development at Aeon, recently took a position as a national sustainable affordable housing advocate. She notes, “If we only find solutions that serve the needs of this project and that cannot be repeated, then that is not sustainable. We have to do better. We have to find replicable solutions for us and for others to use.”  

“The Rose works to resolve the inconvenient truths of affordability and social equity often glossed over in idealized sustainable design projects,” says to MacPherson.  The design responds to specific community stated outcomes gathered in community wide meetings that were facilitated by Aeon and Hope Community. The 5,000-square-foot community garden is available for use by all neighborhood residents and will be rigorously programmed as part of Hope Community’s urban gardening program. “The community garden is a highly visible beacon for urban agriculture and will build community health,” says Will Delaney, Real Estate Specialist at Hope Community. “Outdoor spaces benefit everyone in the community, and help build equity for the entire neighborhood.”

Resident health has been carefully considered in the project’s design. Aeon tapped into several foundations interested in funding research on healthy materials appropriate for affordable housing developments across the country. Pending a few more final adjustments, all materials inside the dwelling unit will comply with LBC’s Red List to create non-toxic living environments. A 5-step DOAS (Dedicated Outdoor Air System) system was a costly investment but a high priority to provide “clean” air for the building to counteract outdoor air pollution (due to the site being close to two freeways and a major city street). The DOAS also allowed the building to better pressurize and is an important part of the building design envelope strategy for air tightness – especially in Minnesota’s bitterly cold winters and hot, humid summers.

The Rose is currently participating in a collaborative study by Healthy Building Network, Parsons School of Design, Green Science Policy Institute, and Health Products Declaration Collaborative. They are studying the project’s material selections with a goal to quantify actual positive health outcomes using the Health Avoidance Hazard Index (HAHI). HAHI will provide the expected outcomes on resident health tied to the use of non-toxic materials. This data will be disseminated by the collaborative to benefit design teams so they can avoid the detailed research that the Rose team engaged in. “The future of design is to fully integrate data driven design with the intuitive and creative process architects have always relied upon to create smart, efficient, healthy, wonderful places to live and work, to walk or drive by every day, and to reconcile our neighborhoods,” says Mellblom.  “We want to create an architecture of enduring value – and we think Rose is that.”

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