A company planning to redevelop the site of a riot-ravaged shopping center in St. Paul says it will obtain a demolition permit within days, after the city ordered it to tear down the buildings.
Little has changed at the site over the past year since the Midway Shopping Center was destroyed in the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd. The empty 34-acre strip mall remains fenced in, though a few spots have been breached.
What was once Big Top Liquors is a charred eyesore facing University Avenue, just yards away from Allianz Field, though all of the shopping center's tenants and businesses were forced to move out last July.
On May 19, the city mailed an order to RK Midway Shopping Center LLC and RD Management Corp. to demolish structures on 19 addresses on W. University Avenue by June 18.
Mortenson, the master developer of the site, said they expect a permit to be issued within the next few days for the demolition of the vacant buildings, according to an e-mailed statement from Senior Vice President Bob Solfelt.
"Mortenson is confident in the future of the Midway neighborhood and we believe that its redevelopment can create opportunities and places that celebrate the incredible community spirit and culture of St. Paul. We will continue to help put the key pieces in place as the owner works with the City to move the project forward," Solfelt said in the statement.
Demolition will take about eight weeks once permits are issued, he said.
The Department of Safety and Inspections found deficiencies including open and collapsed structures, holes and hazards throughout the buildings, mold, rotting food, open sewage lines and the potential for additional structures to collapse, according to the letter.
Midway artist Jonathan Oppenheimer, who lives six blocks from the shopping center, said that he wasn't surprised that the eyesore has remained for so long. To him, the land owned by Rick Birdoff and Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire has appeared rundown for years.
"I think people should be not only be appalled by the ways in which the business owners were treated, who were tenants there, but also just the way in which that site has been completely neglected other than the stadium," Oppenheimer said.
City Council Members Dai Thao and Mitra Jalali, who lives a few blocks from the stadium, helped to secure $10,000 from the property owners in relocation assistance for each displaced business owner.
"People have tons of memories of Peking Garden and Golden Gate Cafe and a lot of other businesses. People just kind of poured out to me like 'I celebrated this family event there,' and 'Those business owners are my friends and I know them,' " Jalali said of the former tenants.
RD Management has announced plans to redevelop the shopping center into a mixed-use development that will include apartments, offices and retail adjacent to Allianz Field, according to the company's website.
Faith Dietz, who has lived in Midway for 17 years, said she's seen a lot of missed opportunities for small-business growth in the area.
"I would like economic development and support particularly for Black and brown businesses, for any entrepreneur that's trying to develop their idea," Dietz said.
Dietz and Jalali hope the redeveloped space includes affordable commercial spaces for local businesses, not unlike the ones that had been there for years.
Zoë Jackson • 612-673-7112 • Twitter: @zoemjack