Fridley’s Columbia Arena will be torn down at the end of this summer, and planners now have a better idea of what’s next for the property.

Through four planning sessions in March and April, the city worked with community members to develop ideas, generating a seven-page report that will be given to the city’s planning commission as it considers how to proceed. The report is not binding.

The city owns three 11-acre parcels in the area — the property where the old ice arena sits, a public works site and an adjoining park and soccer field — and is considering fusing them in three different ways.

One option, an aggregated 33-acre parcel, would create a complex that includes a civic center, a residential area and recreational space. A second option is to develop the arena property alone, with the possibility of adding a city hall building on the site.

But the majority of community members said they preferred a 22-acre plan that would combine the arena and public works sites to create a civic center that would include services like city hall, public works, and police and fire. There might also be retail, residential and office spaces.

This plan would not include development of the adjacent park area.

Scott Hickok, Fridley’s community development director, said strong community interest in the arena site prompted the sessions.

The last workshop took place April 22. “By the end of the night there was a final report and input from everybody in the room and a sense of balance,” said Hickok. He noted that the report is a recommendation, not anything binding.

The background

Columbia Arena, where part of the Disney movie “D3: The Mighty Ducks” was filmed in the 1990s, fell into disrepair and was long held by private developers but no projects ever took off.

The city bought the site last year for $2.6 million and estimates the total public investment in the site for redevelopment will come to $3.4 million, according to a city report.

For the planning sessions, the city brought together architecture and finance experts to work with community members to gauge the financial feasibility of their ideas and sketch them.

“We thought what a perfect match between that interest and a structured process where they could get all their good ideas out,” said Hickok. “This is a really remarkable way to get a group focused on a project and to really get very constructive feedback from people.”

Building a tax base

As Fridley expands, planners say the tax base needs to expand, too, so they are considering a number of housing options and taking into account demographic trends. Reports show that Fridley has an aging population, and the city wants to meet these changing needs while also attracting millennials.

For the arena area, the city is considering small-lot or townhouse options for the seniors and younger families, as well as non-traditional approaches, like senior co-ops.

Hickok said a similar process involving community workshops was used to redevelop vacant commercial buildings on University Avenue, replacing them with a 256-unit apartment complex.

It is possible that plans for the old arena site could be made by the end of this year, Hickok said.


Taylor Nachtigal is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment at the Star Tribune.