The St. Paul Port Authority, the city agency behind high-profile developments such as Allianz Field and the former downtown Macy's space, is planning to buy a former golf course on the city's East Side.
The Port Authority Board of Commissioners is expected to vote June 18 on whether to buy the 112-acre Hillcrest Golf Club site and issue $10 million in general obligation bonds to pay for it.
"Our intent is to purchase, so we have executed a purchase agreement, but it is contingent on several things," said port spokeswoman Andrea Novak, noting that the St. Paul City Council will have to approve the bond issuance.
Two weeks ago, the Port Authority board unanimously approved the creation of an Industrial Development District at the Hillcrest site, allowing the port to play a role in its development. At the time, Port Authority officials said they were interested in buying the property but didn't offer specifics.
Interim Council Member Kassim Busuri, whose ward includes Hillcrest, said he's been talking with the Port Authority about the property since taking office in February.
When Busuri imagines Hillcrest's future, he said, he sees a walkable, bikeable community with parks, housing and businesses. Public-sector involvement in developing the site will allow for more resident input, he said.
"This is the next big project, after Ford, for the city of St. Paul," Busuri said. "It's still my biggest priority to make sure that we get that site developed, and that the master plan will be in the hands of the people of Ward Six."
Hillcrest opened as a municipal golf course in 1921. Steamfitters Pipefitters Local 455 bought the property in 2011 for about $4 million, according to Ramsey County property tax records, and closed the golf club in 2017.
Tony Poole, the union's business manager, did not respond to requests for comment.
The $10 million in bonds the Port Authority plans to issue to purchase Hillcrest does not include an estimated $2.5 million for environmental cleanup. Consulting and testing firm Braun Intertec conducted investigations at the site and discovered mercury contamination linked to fungicides, mostly in the top foot of soil, according to the port. The Pipefitters previously discovered petroleum contamination there, Novak said.
Port officials have described Hillcrest as a brownfield site and said the cost and time needed to clean up the property could discourage private developers.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), which oversees golf course investigations and cleanups, "would expect mercury impacts to be properly cleaned up should the property change use in the future," according to a news release on the port's website.
The MDA got involved with Hillcrest at the request of a consultant working with the Port Authority, but it has not done its own soil testing there, said Communications Director Margaret Hart.
Port Authority President Lee Krueger said a report detailing the extent of the contamination at Hillcrest is pending and will be made public once it's complete.
"It's definitely a lot of activity swirling around," he said.