Another major project has been added to the St. Paul Port Authority’s already-bulging portfolio of redevelopment targets: the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills.
The Ramsey County Board on Tuesday voted 6-1 to make the city’s development agency its consultant and real estate agent as the transformation of the one-time munitions manufacturing site into commercial and residential uses begins.
The county bought the 427-acre site in April 2012 for $28.2 million.
Under terms of a one-year deal, the Port Authority will advise the county and the site’s Joint Development Authority — a panel made up of officials from Ramsey County and Arden Hills — on planning and coordinating its development. The agency also will act as the broker when parcels of land within the TCAAP site, as it is known, are sold.
The county will pay the Port Authority $175 an hour for its services. The agency also will be paid a 5 percent commission on real estate transactions and 7 percent on co-brokered deals. Both rates are lower than those charged in the private market, Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said.
The county will pay only for consulting services it requests, she said. “So we are in control of that — it’s not something that they would go do, and then bill us for,” she added.
Commissioner Janice Rettman cast the lone vote against the plan after expressing concern about how the Port Authority’s services would be funded. The money would come from contingency funds built into the TCAAP site’s purchase price, County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt said. Rather than being directly paid back to the county’s general fund internally, the money would be recouped when land at the site is sold.
Other commissioners said the Port Authority’s expertise in redevelopment, particularly with polluted sites — which TCAAP is — made it a valuable investment.
“This is about creating jobs, creating living-wage jobs,” Commissioner Rafael Ortega said. “This contract is about having the Port Authority on board to help us align as the property is developed to make sure that, as we negotiate, that we are bringing those kinds of jobs to TCAAP and the county. … Otherwise, it would still be sitting there, polluted.”
Since the property was purchased, nearly all of its buildings have been demolished and soil cleanup has begun. The site will be cleaned to residential standards. All preparation work is scheduled to be done by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, early designs for housing, parks and commercial property on the site are being developed. Gov. Mark Dayton’s $986 million bonding request to the Legislature included $29 million for road and bridge projects at the site, east of the junction of Hwy. 10 and Interstate 35W.
The TCAAP site is the latest high-profile redevelopment project taken on by the Port Authority. The site is a natural fit for what the agency does, spokesman Tom Collins said. Nor is it unusual for the Port Authority to work beyond the bounds of the city. The agency has done energy conservation projects in Minneapolis, for example, and has assisted the city of Sartell after a fire destroyed and forced the closure of the Verso paper plant, a major employer.
Just last week, the agency purchased the vacant Macy’s department store in downtown St. Paul for $3 million, with plans that could include redeveloping it into housing or commercial space.
It also bought the Lowertown ballpark site when the city of St. Paul was too strapped for cash to buy it, then swapped it with the city for old Midway Stadium, which will become part of Energy Park Business Center after the St. Paul Saints leave for their new park in 2015. Several businesses already have expressed interest in locating there, Collins said.
The agency also is drawing new tenants to its 61-acre Beacon Bluff site, the former headquarters of the 3M Co. on St. Paul’s East Side. The authority purchased the site for $5 million after 3M moved its operations to Maplewood. Three businesses already have located there, and one of the biggest pieces of the project, the overhaul of Building 21 — 3M’s world headquarters from 1910 to 1962 — is heading to completion.