Plans that would shape the streets, parks and types of buildings around the proposed soccer stadium in St. Paul are nearly complete.
The city’s Planning Commission on Friday approved an outline for a 34.4-acre “superblock” near University and Snelling avenues.
The overarching idea is to create a vibrant “urban village” that’s well connected to bike paths, parks and transit, including the Green Line and new bus rapid transit route. The new community is supposed to have sustainable stormwater and landscaping practices and a mix of residential, office, retail, hotel, parking and entertainment spaces, planning documents state.
But not everyone is on board with all of the recommendations. RK Midway, which owns 25 acres of the site, and nearby residents have raised concerns about parts of the plans.
Residents are generally worried about traffic, noise and parking. And RK Midway owner Rick Birdoff wrote a letter to city officials this week saying they are being too restrictive in several areas, such as how many square feet should be dedicated to office space.
“We need flexibility to determine the uses based on the market demand, not artificial benchmarks,” Birdoff wrote.
Community members and developers will have another chance to air concerns before the City Council votes on the plan in August.
Council members have supported the Minnesota United FC stadium and quickly cleared the way for development at the site, including agreeing to spend more than $18 million on infrastructure improvements.
Other pieces of the stadium construction puzzle, meanwhile, have not fallen into place.
Tax exemption up in the air
Major League Soccer (MLS) announced in 2015 that Minnesota was getting a franchise, and team owners have been pushing to build a stadium in time for the 2018 MLS season. Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire has said the team will pay to build and maintain the $150 million open-air stadium, which will hold more than 20,000 people. But he said he is counting on the Legislature to grant a property tax exemption for the stadium site and a tax break on construction materials.
The property tax exemption was part of the tax bill that Gov. Mark Dayton did not sign. If a special session is not held, the team may have to return to the Legislature next year to repeat the requests.
United spokesman Eric Durkee said the team is “continuing to work on the details of the MLS franchise and stadium construction process.” He declined to comment further.
Site details outlined
As the stadium site plan and master plan for the superblock have developed, new details have emerged.
Planning documents now call for broadband development and a separate fund, with contributions from developers, to address neighborhood issues arising from stadium events and operations. City staff also increased the maximum density of buildings in the area.
Birdoff said the proposed density is far too aggressive. City staff replied that if a desirable project comes along that does not meet the requirement, officials could consider modifying the rules.
“I think we’ve put together some really sound design principles that hopefully will bring the city the development that it wants,” Planning Commissioner Paula Merrigan said after the board unanimously approved the plans.