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Port Authority touts Wild rink in Macy’s grant application

Plans for a rooftop Minnesota Wild practice facility at the shuttered Macy’s in downtown St. Paul won’t move forward until the building’s owner firms up a redevelopment framework for the site.

Still, the St. Paul Port Authority, which owns the building, hasn’t shied away from positioning the move as a sure bet to help nail down a $720,750 grant from the Metropolitan Council to clean up asbestos and lead-based paint at the 500,000-square-foot site.

So far, the Port Authority has agreed to sell a 25,000-square-foot slice of the building to a developer tied to Walgreen Co., and is scoping out tenants for the rest. It doesn’t expect to announce any other agreements in the near future, but harnessed the Wild’s interest to sell the Met Council on the project.

In its grant pitch, the Port Authority detailed a 60,000-square-foot rooftop rink plus 28,370 square feet of lower-level space for other Wild amenities. The rink would offer access to the public and local college teams, as well as youth programming, according to the application.

But big things need to happen before the Wild ownership officially hops on board.

The team won’t sign on until there is a master developer or joint venture in place to spearhead a facelift at the property. The site is nestled between Cedar, Wabasha, Sixth and Seventh streets, two blocks from the Green Line’s Central Station stop.

“For us, it’s more about looking to be a good tenant in the right facility, not necessarily taking over a major project,” Wild spokeswoman Kathy Ross said Thursday.

More than a year after it bought the property for $3 million, the Port Authority remains in negotiations with a handful of developers over a joint venture or outright sale of the 360,000-square-foot building and an adjacent parking structure.

The agency expects to reach an agreement by the end of the year, but until then, discussions over the Wild’s much-anticipated practice space appear to be in a holding pattern.

“We are still talking to the Wild about a practice facility at the former Macy’s building but I don’t expect anything to change in those negotiations until we get a master developer/joint venture partner for the entire building,” Port Authority spokesman Tom Collins said in an email.

The team surfaced with interest in the space last year. Jamie Spencer, the Wild’s vice president of new business development and assistant to the team’s chairman, said earlier this month that Wild officials speak “pretty much daily” with the Port Authority.

Developers in talks with the Port Authority each have their own ideas for the layout of the practice rink project, Collins said. The agency is refining its initial vision for the facility alongside its prospective partners.

But even without a clear plan, the Met Council threw its weight behind the effort through a multimillion-dollar funding program for projects that grow the local tax base and create jobs on commercial sites stymied by contamination.

“The Macy’s redevelopment project meets those objectives,” Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said. “Projects are evaluated and scored in their entirety, and the rink is part of the project overall.”

On Tuesday, the Port Authority’s board approved a routine move to pass the Macy’s property to Capital City Properties, a nonprofit subsidiary that since 1991 has handled joint development efforts. The change streamlines joint venture and sale agreements.

The Port Authority plans to upgrade and retrofit the property to accommodate a variety of retail and other tenants.

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