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That project is the latest at Beacon Bluff involving Jim Stolpestad, chairman of Exeter Realty Co., who has led many upscale developments across the Twin Cities. One of his companies, Ironton Asset Fund, bought a major chunk of the Beacon Bluff property — including Building 21, 3M’s world headquarters until 1962 — from the Port Authority for $1, with the understanding it would be developed and attract tenants that offer good-paying jobs.
Stolpestad said he and his fellow investors initially resisted the Port Authority’s offer. Having roots on the East Side, he knew the neighborhood’s history. That’s why he was reluctant — and why he relented. “We had a predisposition to that area,” he said.
His office on the 23rd floor of the First National Bank Building in downtown St. Paul looks toward the bluff, where his Norwegian-immigrant great-grandfather settled, drawn by its natural beauty overlooking the Mississippi River. “From a geographical point of view, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be doing better than it’s doing,” he said of the neighborhood. “It’s really got a lot going for it.”
Much of the exterior work around Building 21 is done, and Stolpestad is confident there will be tenants soon.
The old Hamm’s brewery also is being revitalized, with Flat Earth Brewing Co. announcing plans this summer to expand into several abandoned buildings.
Hungry for change
Much of the development around Dayton’s Bluff is being driven by food. The neighborhood already boasts Italian, Salvadoran, Mexican, Hmong, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants and markets, but food could help make it a destination.
The new East Side Enterprise Center will include a warehouse where local small-scale farmers can store their goods. The Mississippi Market, a growing consumer-owned health and natural food cooperative, is considering opening a store in the empty Hospital Linen building on 7th, a block east of Metro State University.
That could complement the Urban Oasis food hub envisioned by Tracy Sides, who earlier this month won the $1 million Forever St. Paul Challenge. Sides and her team plan to turn part of a vacant century-old rail warehouse at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in Dayton’s Bluff into a place where local produce, meat and fish can be gathered, prepared and sold to schools, hospitals, restaurants and groceries.
“That’s the magic of food,” said Sides. “It can improve health, strengthen community bonds and it is an economic driver.” Plans for the oasis include a cafe, a commercial kitchen for use by a catering firm, classrooms to teach cooking and canning, an affiliated food truck and a worker-owned food processing co-op.
“It’s an idea that will really build on a lot of the good things that are already happening on the East Side,” she said.
Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson