Developments give Fridley a boost

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 6, 2014 - 3:45 PM

Fridley is having a banner year for development, with major industrial and housing projects preparing to break ground in June, officials say.

The projects include two big office-warehouses on E. River Road and a three-building, 259-unit apartment complex along University Avenue, south of 61st Avenue.

“This is definitely the most projects with a lot of visibility to them that we have had going at any one time,” said Paul Bolin, assistant executive director of the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). “It will really change the face of Fridley over the next year, as these projects are all being built at very visible locations.”

The City Council gave its final approval last week for the Cielo apartment complex: three upscale apartment buildings to be erected along University Avenue, Bolin said. He said The HRA is expected to approve a deal by early June under which Trident Development, of St. Cloud, would pay the HRA $2.1 million for a cleared 6-acre site for Cielo. Trident plans to start work on the first, 101-unit building in June, Bolin added.

To the south and west of that development, Industrial Equities hopes to begin work this summer on a warehouse/office/residential project. Riverside Corporate Centre will sit on a 26.5-acre site along the train tracks northeast of the Interstate 694 interchange at E. River Road.

Equities owner John Allen said he’s on the fence about whether to begin construction this summer on a speculative office-warehouse with about 135,000 square feet, or to wait until he signs a major tenant.

Allen also plans a 102-unit apartment building that would be within a half-mile of the Northstar Station, as the Cielo apartments will be.

“We love this location,” Allen said. “It is a few blocks from the Northstar Commuter Train station, across the street from a bus stop and right on the 694 freeway.”

Farther south on E. River Road, Hyde Development was to begin pollution cleanup this week on the southern edge of a 122-acre site for the first of 12 buildings planned in the Northern Stacks industrial park, said Scott Hickok, Fridley’s community development director. Paul Hyde said he hopes to begin work in June on a speculative 213,000 square-foot bulk warehouse with 32-foot ceilings. The $13 million structure will be built in the parking lot south of the sprawling BAE Systems plant, he said.

The HRA has spent more than $5 million since 2006 buying buildings from willing owners, demolishing and clearing them for the Cielo site, Bolin said. He said the city will recover its investment over the years from the property taxes on the now vacant, untaxed site.

Hyde, a Minneapolis company, will receive about $6 million in city and state grants to help remove polluted soils on the BAE site, where the U.S. Navy and later FMC Corp. built equipment and ammunition for the military. Paul Hyde said he could receive up to $16 million in assistance when he eventually demolishes the 2 million-square-foot BAE complex.

The city is subsidizing Hyde because “if we don’t mitigate the contamination and take down old buildings, it won’t occur,” said Mayor Scott Lund. Because of its size, and because it is a federal Superfund cleanup site, Northern Stacks “is the largest, most complex deal in the history of Fridley. There is a need for government agencies to be part of the process to get grants to make the project doable.”

Lund said the three projects, along with a recent $4.2 million Cub Foods renovation and adjacent Fridley Market expansion, make this “the biggest year in my memory for development in Fridley.”

Hickok said Fridley Market developer Tri-Land Properties, of Westchester, Ill., has applied for a routine building permit for a Teppanyaki Grill Supreme Buffet in the southeast corner of the Cub building, facing I-694 and University Avenue.

At the Cielo apartments, a skyway will link the northern two buildings, and an enclosed walkway will lead occupants north to 6lst Avenue. The first floor of Cielo’s four-floor buildings will be enclosed parking, which pleased its neighbors along 4th Street.

“I am glad they are doing high-end apartments,” said Doug McWilliams. He said as long as Cielo doesn’t devolve into low-rent buildings “it is a good deal. If not, we are done.”

Lund said Fridley Market and Cielo are sprucing up a major gateway along University Avenue into Fridley.

“We need to put on a better image for those coming into Fridley. Image is very important in the life of the city,” he said. “I don’t want it all bypassing us. I want to put our best face forward.”

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