Now that the St. Paul City Council has signed off on borrowing $10 million to acquire the former Hillcrest Golf Club, city staff will begin planning for the future of the 112-acre site on the city’s East Side.
Council members unanimously approved a bond issuance last week to finance the Port Authority’s purchase of the site, which is one of the largest undeveloped tracts in the city. Council members applauded the move by the port, which has had a hand in redevelopment projects including the former downtown Macy’s building and Allianz Field.
“This is a great project for the city of St. Paul,” said Council Member Dai Thao, who serves on the Port Authority board, adding that the agency “continues to prove that they’re a good organization for the city of St. Paul.”
Council Member Kassim Busuri, whose ward includes Hillcrest, said that while the redevelopment is expected to include jobs, housing and green space, it’s too soon to say exactly what it will look like.
“There’s still a need to ensure citizens’ voices are heard throughout the master planning process,” he said.
The city’s Planning and Economic Development department will start community engagement and planning in the fall. Once plans are complete, the port “will begin mass grading, environmental remediation and infrastructure improvements, pursuant to the master plan,” according to authority spokeswoman Andrea Novak.
The agency is also planning to construct 5 acres of parkland and maintain another 15 acres of open green space. Marketing of the site will begin in 2021, according to Novak.
Port officials have said that mercury contamination from a fungicide was discovered at Hillcrest, which operated as a golf course until 2017. The time and money needed for cleanup would be a barrier for private developers, they said. The port estimates remediation will cost about $2.5 million but has not provided details about the extent of the contamination.