The stage is set for the St. Paul Port Authority, a nonprofit government agency involved in many large development projects around the city, to facilitate a real estate deal at the property next to the Minnesota United stadium site.

On Tuesday, the Port's Credit Committee approved a plan to lease 15.6 acres from RK Midway, which owns much of the property, including the Midway Shopping Center, that makes up the 34.5-acre redevelopment area in the Snelling-Midway neighborhood.

The cost of the lease hasn't been finalized and the deal will still need approval from the Port Authority.

A section of the shopping center, including the Rainbow Foods, needs to be torn down to make way for the stadium. The Port Authority has gotten involved because of "complications with existing financial aspects on the deal," Port Authority President Lee Krueger said.

The shopping center is just north of a Metropolitan Council-owned site where most of the stadium will be located.

Stadium developers will start construction at the south end of the Met Council site, but they could only do a few weeks of work before they would need access to the northern property where the shopping center sits, said Monte Hilleman, the Port Authority's vice president of redevelopment.

Abatement and demolition work at the shopping center will likely begin in April, Hilleman said.

The Port Authority is looking for a partner, or partners, to join them as a master tenant and eventually purchase the 15.6-acre site. That purchase could occur in nine months or a year, Krueger said.

Credit Committee members said they do not want the Port Authority to be a long-term owner of the property.

"I am personally not in favor of us permanently owning the shopping center facility," Committee Member John Regal said, but he said he supports the suggested plan as a way to help move along development at the site.

United officials have said they would like to use their new stadium in St. Paul for part of the 2018 season, but Tuesday Krueger said 2019 is more likely.

Jessie Van Berkel • 612-673-4649