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The Twin Cities Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills was once praised as the ideal property for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium complex.

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Arden Hills site misses out on state funding

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON
  • Star Tribune
  • September 12, 2012 - 6:17 AM

Ramsey County apparently won't win a consolation prize, either.

The county's request for $5.9 million to clean up the once-hoped-for home of a Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills wasn't even evaluated by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for grant money to be awarded soon.

The county offered up much of the polluted 430-acre Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site to the Vikings, but lost out to Minneapolis.

Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to announce this week how the state will disburse $47.5 million in DEED grants.

Some thought cleanup money for the site would be the county's reward for its efforts to bring the Vikings stadium to the east metro. But St. Paul City Hall had the same idea and the city's request for $27 million for a new $54 million St. Paul Saints ballpark in Lowertown ranked first in the DEED evaluations among the 90 applications.

Always the optimist, Board Member Tony Bennett said he holds out hope. "We're talking about pollution, we're talking about jobs and some infrastructure," Bennett said Tuesday.

The site is the state's most polluted Superfund site. Dayton has repeatedly expressed a desire to clean it up.

Long before Minneapolis got in the game with a proposal to tear down the Metrodome and build a new stadium for the Vikings, Bennett and Board Chairman Rafael Ortega stood with team owner Zygi Wilf and announced a deal to move the Vikings into a gleaming new $1 billion stadium there. Wilf also was to get development rights on the surrounding acres.

In the end, a deal among the Vikings, Minneapolis and the Legislature snuffed that plan.

For Ortega, the DEED rankings provided great news -- he represents downtown St. Paul and supports the new Lowertown ballpark. He noted that the grants must be awarded to regions statewide; if St. Paul gets the big Saints money, Ramsey County can't get much else.

"To be realistic, that is such a tiny pot, with so many people going after it," Ortega said. "I was hoping we would get something as a token gesture, but I am not surprised at all."

Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said she wasn't upset by the news because she didn't want the county to seek the money.

She voted against the request because she said the cleanup cost should be borne by the state, not county taxpayers alone.

Deal with federal agency

The property is one of the largest undeveloped parcels in the Twin Cities, and has picturesque views just off Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10. The county has a purchase agreement with the federal General Services Administration (GSA) to buy the land for $28.5 million, with $22.5 million of that credited for cleanup. The agreement expires Oct. 1. An extension is a possibility.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said the governor is a longstanding supporter of the cleanup and remains so.

She said he will include money in his proposed 2013 bonding bill. She said Dayton will work with local leaders to determine a proposed amount.

What happens with his proposal hinges heavily on the November elections.

If the county doesn't buy the property from the GSA, Reinhardt said, the agency could market and attempt to sell the land.

"If the worst-case scenario is the GSA sells it to a private developer, that's not such a bad scenario," she said.

Anyone who buys the land will have to clean it up.

The grant money and the county matching funds would have provided the funding to get started by cleaning up "hot spots," Ortega said.

The chairman wants a plan for the property in place in the next few weeks.

He wouldn't detail what he's considering, but said, "we're exploring other opportunities for the state and governor to become partners with the county."

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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