The St. Paul Port Authority plans to lease the Midway Shopping Center property — and find new potential owners for the site — to make way for the Major League Soccer stadium and redevelopment.

Port Authority staff will recommend to their board this month that the authority enter into a lease agreement with RK Midway, which owns the Midway Shopping Center.

RK Midway and the Minnesota United soccer team have spent months in negotiations about the property, where the stadium plans overlap with the shopping center and would require part of the strip mall to be torn down. United Owner Bill McGuire has said the stadium project is complex, but has declined to give details on negotiations.

The Port Authority, which has worked on numerous joint ventures around the city, had to get involved at the property because of “complications with existing financial aspects on the deal,” Port Authority President Lee Krueger said.

If the plan goes forward, the Port Authority would become the “master tenant” at the site, the first of several steps as the authority works toward redevelopment.

Next, officials would select a commercial development partner that would enter into a joint venture with the Port Authority. They are talking with a number of potential partners and likely will announce who will be joining them in February, Krueger said.

The lease with RK Midway will give the partnership the option of purchasing the property. Krueger said the Port Authority likely will not be part of the purchase and would prefer to let their commercial partner — or partners — take over ownership of the site. When a purchase might happen remains to be seen, he said.

The cost to purchase the property would be based on rents. Exactly what the Port Authority and its partner would have to pay RK Midway in rent has not been finalized, Krueger said.

Rick Birdoff, with RK Midway, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Big development plans

The property that the Port Authority and a partner would take over is a 15.6 acre chunk of the 34.5-acre “superblock” at the corner of Snelling and University avenues. The city’s master plan for the superblock includes the Minnesota United soccer stadium and mixed use development.

The Port Authority’s involvement will facilitate the Major League Soccer stadium and the mixed use development, documents state, and that development likely would include: “tenants leasing space consisting of housing, retailers, restaurants, medical office, entertainment and athletic facilities, as consistent with the city’s Master Plan for the area.”

The stadium predominantly will be on a vacant Metropolitan Council property. Little progress has been visible at the empty lot, which makes up about 10 acres of the superblock.

The team plans to start construction “in earnest in April or May,” Nick Rogers, president of Minnesota United FC, said Friday at a Minnesota Real Estate Journal summit on development in St. Paul.

He said he expects the stadium will open for the United to use partway through the 2018 season or at the start of the 2019 season.

Redevelopment of the full 34.5-acre site likely will not occur for another 10 to 20 years, Krueger said.

The authority is carefully vetting potential partners, he said.