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Confirmed soccer stadium drawing developers to Midway area

Karlee Weinmann//October 26, 2015//

Confirmed soccer stadium drawing developers to Midway area

Karlee Weinmann//October 26, 2015//

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St. Paul on Friday claimed victory in a monthslong campaign to bring a pro soccer stadium to town, and city officials say the $250 million project already has developers looking for a piece of a Midway neighborhood overhaul.

The team owners financing the facility, led by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire, won’t name the stadium developer for a few weeks. But several other shops, including United Properties, are circling nearly 25 acres of aging properties surrounding the stadium with other ideas.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman pitched the stadium as a catalyst for broader redevelopment. The stadium itself will replace a shuttered bus maintenance facility on a 10-acre site near Snelling and University avenues, but nearby land currently home to a strip mall and surface parking will also get a facelift.

New York-based RK Midway owns the surplus land and committed Friday to pushing ahead with redevelopment plans. Richard Birdoff, who oversees the company, did not outline specifics but said the new Minnesota United FC stadium significantly expands options for the site.

“We have waited years for the right stimulus to help drive redevelopment of this area into a more vibrant part of a highly progressive community,” he said. “The MLS stadium provides us the catalyst to move ahead and help create something that will further enhance this area in ways that will be source of pride for everyone.”

Minneapolis-based United Properties – run by the Pohlad family, which is also a Minnesota United FC co-owner – confirmed Friday it was “exploring redevelopment scenarios” adjacent to the stadium that could include office and retail space.

The stadium itself – priced at $120 million for starters – could be expanded down the line, McGuire said. His group will cover initial costs, including construction, as well as another $130 million or so in franchise fees and “soft costs,” but facility ownership will fall to a stadium authority.

McGuire said the owner group is exclusively overseeing the bidding process. The group will cover any cost overruns and plan to announce an architecture firm and contractor in the coming weeks, he said. He told reporters earlier this year that the owners are working with the Kansas City-based Populous architecture firm on stadium plans.

Overall plans for the site won’t include much additional parking. Instead, he said, the project will tap into extensive transit options nearby, including the Green Line light rail transit route and the forthcoming bus rapid transit line.

McGuire scouted the “bus barn” site as potential stadium location beginning three years ago, and Friday’s announcement marked his full-circle return to that plan. Team owners earlier this year zeroed in on a site across the river near the Minneapolis Farmers Market, but couldn’t gain traction at City Hall.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges balked at the team owners’ proposal to finance the $120 million-plus stadium in exchange for property tax breaks and sales tax relief on materials. Despite city council support, Hodges quickly spurned the request, worth an estimated $3 million to $4 million.

Her move cracked the door to a deal in St. Paul, and Coleman forced it open. He won over the St. Paul City Council and Ramsey County, which both approved nonbinding resolutions to support property tax relief for the project.

“In the beginning, I was a little bit doubtful, but today I’m filled with excitement,” St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao, whose district covers the stadium site, said Friday.

Through a few months of intensive negotiations, Coleman ultimately convinced McGuire his city was the right one for pro soccer.

“We needed to hear from the mayor and the community that they believe in this opportunity –not just the soccer stadium, but the development and redevelopment of the whole area,” McGuire said.

City and county officials have said the wide-reaching development stoked by the stadium would offset a tax break. The tax relief was considered an easier sell in St. Paul because the bus barn site – owned by the Metropolitan Council – hasn’t been on city our county tax rolls in more than 50 years.

Legislators will need to sign off on the tax abatement after they return to the Capitol in March, but Gov. Mark Dayton and several lawmakers have already thrown their weight behind the project. McGuire said he would ask the state for sales tax relief on construction materials – a component of other recent stadium projects.

On Friday, Coleman signaled strong support in the Legislature and Rep. Rena Moran, a Democrat whose district includes the stadium site, said she would push hard to swing lawmakers in favor of the project.

Negotiations between Coleman and McGuire’s group happened behind closed doors, firing up calls for more transparency and resident engagement as the project progresses. Last week, the mayor said a group of up to 20 community members would help steer redevelopment around the stadium.

“A very, very important part of this process are community voices helping us get this right,” Coleman said.

Team owners plan to break ground on the project in late May or early June, in time for completion in 2018. Between now and then, they’ll wait for legislators to sign off on tax relief and iron out development details.

March 25: Major League Soccer awards franchise to Minnesota; team owners like Minneapolis site

April 15: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges balks at owners’ tax relief request

June 19: Minneapolis City Council forms soccer stadium working group

July 1: League-imposed deadline expires for Minneapolis stadium; MLS officials plan visit to St. Paul

July 9: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman launches public push to build stadium at bus barn site

July 17: Minneapolis working group meets privately to gauge stadium prospects

July 29: North Loop business and community leaders urge Hodges to rethink her opposition

Aug. 11: Deputy MLS Commissioner Mark Abbott tours bus barn site

Aug. 26: St. Paul City Council approves resolution supporting tax breaks for stadium project

Aug. 31: Option on proposed Minneapolis stadium site officially expires

Sept. 8: Ramsey County follows St. Paul City Council with support for stadium-related tax relief

Sept. 21: MLS Commissioner Don Garber all but confirms plans for St. Paul stadium during visit

Oct. 14: St. Paul City Council, Metropolitan Council and St. Paul Port Authority adopt a joint powers agreement to guide stadium development negotiations

Oct. 23: Coleman, team owners formalize agreement to build stadium in St. Paul

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