Photo by Leila Navidi

Several Twin Cities universities will brainstorm ideas on how to best utilize undeveloped land on the riverfront in downtown St. Paul.

As part of its 15th annual University Challenge, the Minnesota chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, will have three finalists from six universities present their concepts for the site as part of an April 19 program.

"We look forward to the results of these student projects and believe that their concepts will provide value as touchpoints in the conversations we are currently having with potential developers for the site," Ramsey County spokesman John Siqveland said, in an e-mail.

Ramsey County spent $17 million to demolish the former West Publishing Co. buildings and the Ramsey County jail that used to stand on the nearly five acres of land at the intersection of Wabasha Street and Kellogg Boulevard that overlooks the Mississippi River.

Phoenix-based Cardon Development Group was the only developer to submit ideas to Ramsey County when it sought a partner to remake the site. Cardon wanted to build a $225 million complex with an upscale hotel, 300-unit housing, offices, retail and parking, but the plan fell through.

The county continues to meet with developers to hear their perceptions of the development potential in the site, Siqveland said. The County Board hopes to select a preferred developer in the third quarter of this year.