Skyline Tower, the high rise building at 1247 St. Anthony built in 1972, remains the largest and tallest public housing building in the state. Built as part of HUD’s Section 236 program it was sold soon after construction to a private company as affordable housing.
Its importance has been immeasurable in terms of housing available to new immigrants. During the first years of Vietnamese emigration from a war-torn country, in the early- to mid-1970s, the building was one of the few affordable places that these new settlers could find in which to live until they were able to secure jobs and get on their feet.
Beginning with this wave of immigrants, each new group gravitated to 1247 St. Anthony, as the building was first known. It has housed people from Vietnam, Laos, Korea, Hmong from various refugee camps in Thailand and Laos, and it now has a large population from East Africa, especially Somali.
During the years of private ownership and management, maintenance and security was allowed to deteriorate. After a series of fires in the late 1990s it became clear that radical changes to the building were needed. Purchased in 2000 by CommonBond Communities, and now owned by SewardWest a large number of upgrades, renovations, and a welcoming entrance addition provide a secure and far more pleasant living experience for the tenants.
There are community services located in the building along with space for classes, often taught by volunteers. The tenants have also created a viable and lively organization of residents.
The most recent change is the addition next to the building, in a former parking lot, of the Midway Peace Park. An effort driven by the residents with funding from many sources, the park provides both green space, sorely lacking in the neighborhood, and playground equipment for the many youth of the families living in this huge high rise.