A section of the Midway Shopping Center sits right where the United Major League Soccer stadium is supposed to end up.
The owner of the strip mall, RK Midway, and the United owners have been in negotiations over how to handle the property. But a deal has not yet been reached, and the St. Paul Port Authority is preparing in case it is asked to step in.
The Port Authority, a public entity that has been involved in many high-profile development projects around the city, could potentially lease or buy the RK Midway property and turn it over to the soccer team. But the authority could only have that kind of involvement in the site if it is part of an industrial development district, Port Authority President Lee Krueger said.
“In a perfect world, the soccer team and [RK Midway President Richard] Birdoff get their deal done and we all live happily ever after and we never have to act on this one,” Krueger said. “More than anything, it’s pre-emptive, just in case we need it.”
The Port Authority’s Credit Committee voted this week to approve the creation of an industrial development district in the area. That decision will go before the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners for a public hearing Tuesday at 2 p.m.
“At this point we don’t know what our role is going to be in that development,” Laurie Hansen, the Port Authority’s chief financial officer, told the Credit Committee.
The Port Authority has established many such districts — intended to improve properties that are poorly planned, unproductive or have inadequate infrastructure — over the years. When it creates such a district, it doesn’t mean it has to get involved with the property, Hansen said.
“We’re really preparing ourselves for any number of potential possibilities,” Port Authority Commissioner Paul Williams said.
If the Port Authority opts to buy or lease part of the land or enter a joint venture agreement, that would come before the Board of Commissioners again, Krueger said. And if it doesn’t get involved, “No harm, no foul. It doesn’t cost us anything,” he said.
The Port Authority already has sought funds to remediate the Metropolitan Council property where most of the stadium will be located. But it was doing that work as a consultant — not a property owner or lessee — and therefore did not need to create an industrial development district, Krueger said.
The stadium site plan, which the St. Paul City Council approved in August, shows what soccer fans can expect when the $150 million, 20,000-seat stadium opens. Team owner Bill McGuire said that would occur sometime in 2018.
The stadium entrance, with terraces leading to a lawn with green space, is planned where part of the Midway Shopping Center — the section that includes Rainbow Foods grocery store — now stands.
The stadium development would take up about 16 acres, according to the site plan, including 10 owned by the Met Council and approximately 6 acres owned by RK Midway.
Birdoff, who did not respond to a request for comment, has plans to eventually redevelop the full Midway Shopping Center property into an urban village with a mix of uses that would be tied to the stadium development.
McGuire recently said he anticipates breaking ground on the stadium later this year. The team did not comment Wednesday on how negotiations with RK Midway could impact that time frame.