St. Paul Port Authority committee approves purchase of Macy's store

The agency will try to encourage reuse of the building.

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Macy's in downtown St. Paul

A St. Paul Port Authority committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the agency’s purchase of the shuttered downtown St. Paul Macy’s store for $3 million.

The full Port Authority, a development agency that operates independent of the city, will vote on the matter next Tuesday, with a closing on the 362,000-square-foot property set for no later than Jan. 29.

It’s still unclear what will become of the former department store and 550-space parking ramp, which will be purchased from the real estate arm of the Cincinnati-based chain. The store closed in March 2013, and the site is valued at $4 million.

The Port Authority’s first priority will be to market the site in a way that reuses the current building, which dates to the early 1960s. If that doesn’t generate interest in the development community, then the store will be demolished to create a “shovel-ready” site for future redevelopment, said Lee Krueger, the Port Authority’s senior vice president of real estate and development.

“We are very optimistic about the possibilities” of the site, Krueger told the committee. “A lot of people think the timing is right” with light rail and the Saints ballpark in Lowertown planned, as well as a planned expansion to the Children’s Museum, the redevelopment of the Palace Theater and the opening of the Penfield mixed-use development.

Port Authority estimates show that reusing three stories of the existing building would cost about $21.3 million. Assuming that the building would be 90 percent leased at $13 a square foot, the estimated value of the redeveloped building would be $29 million with options to expand into the basement and fourth floor.

The demolition scenario would cost about $16.5 million, according to the Port Authority’s assessment. If a 400,000-square-foot project were erected in its wake, a potential private development could be valued at $90 million.

The Port Authority said it’s not known at this time what role city funds will play in the development scenarios. By actually owning the site, the agency said it will be in the “position to assist with the redevelopment of a prime parcel of real estate in the central business district.” Any future uses of the property will be “market driven.”

Before the Port Authority’s involvement, Macy’s executed two separate purchase agreements for the property with private developers for $4.25 million, but both deals fell apart.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has said he hopes the site’s redevelopment would serve as “an economic engine for Wabasha Street.”

Coleman has suggested that he’d like to see the site replaced with a Class A office building that includes first- and second-floor amenities that would tie in to the downtown bar and restaurant scene.

The Port Authority has assembled a team — including structural, environmental, legal and architectural experts — to review the property in order to ascertain the issues facing redevelopment of the site. The expected cost of the reviews is about $250,000.

The agency will also use the local commercial real estate community and other business groups as “marketing resources.”

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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