For the past five years, great expectations have surrounded the northwest corner of the intersection at E. 10th and Robert streets in downtown St. Paul. A 30-some-story tower called the Penfield was supposed to rise up, but the real estate market and a slow economy threw a wrench into the plans.

Now, the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is proposing to take control of the $54 million project and get it done. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development first must sign off on the plan.

WHY NOW? The HRA wants to take advantage of Build America Bonds, part of the federal stimulus program. The HRA would use $48 million of bonding money. HUD would guarantee the bonds, which lowers the risk to taxpayers, said Cecile Bedor, St. Paul's director of planning and economic development. About $3.6 million in proceeds from a special taxing district also would be used, as well as $1.7 million in grants.

PROJECT DETAILS: The 10-story Penfield tower would hold 216 rental housing units, house a 30,000-square-foot Lunds supermarket and provide more than 300 parking spaces. The building would have a green roof. Rents would range from $992 for an efficiency apartment to $1,782 for a two-bedroom unit, according to an HRA report.

The project was originally proposed as a 33-story, $88 million condo and hotel project. At that time, the condos were priced from about $200,000 to more than $1 million, but the market dried up. The building is expected to contribute $480,000 in property tax revenue.

THE PLAYERS: The HRA would create a new limited-liability corporation, issue the bonds and own the project. HUD would serve as underwriter. The project's original developers, Alatus Partners and Sherman Rutzick & Associates, would still be involved.

WHAT'S NEXT? Over the next week or two, the HRA board, made up of City Council members, needs to approve the plan, which will then be submitted to HUD for pre-approval. If the pre-application is approved, a final application would be turned in by Sept. 15. HUD could sign off on the project by Nov. 15, with closing possible in December. Construction would follow.

CHRIS HAVENS AND Jennifer Bjorhus