St. Paul one step closer to redeveloping prime downtown riverfront property

If local leaders see their hopes realized, a stretch of land on the downtown St. Paul riverfront with tremendous potential will soon be redeveloped into new office space, hotel rooms and housing.

On January 15, Minnetonka-based developer Opus Northwest struck an agreement with Ramsey County to buy two key riverfront properties. The land includes the former County Adult Detention Center and the old West Publishing complex, currently known as Ramsey County Government Center West. The buildings are located along the riverward side of Kellogg Boulevard between the Wabasha Street Bridge and Science Museum/District Energy.

That incredible location — with sweeping riverfront vistas from the core of downtown — draws comparisons with other local riverfront landmarks, from the sites of the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum in Minneapolis to the Science Museum in St. Paul. Any project there holds enormous potential as a central link between downtown and the Mississippi River valley. Redevelopment of the site has been a top priority for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

In preparation for the sale, Opus submitted a preliminary concept for the land that included three major components, with an estimated development cost of over $200 million:

  • Adjacent to the Science Museum and District Energy, a 23-story, 504,000-square foot office building with river-level parking for 252 cars would rise. The proposed office space would be a relatively minor increase over the roughly 400,000 square feet of space that exists at the site currently and would be anchored by a yet-unidentified tenant.
  • In the center portion of the site would be a 19-story building with 10 floors of condos on the top and nine floors of prime hotel space adjacent to the RiverCentre convention center.
  • On the eastern part of the site, roughly between St. Peter and Wabasha Streets, across from City Hall, would stand a 6-story residential building. The structure would be built only to the height of the face of the bluff between Kellogg Boulevard and Shepard Road, similar in form to the existing Detention Center at the site. The top of the building would be capped by a riverfront plaza that would connect at the same level as Kellogg Boulevard and Wabasha Street, similar in nature to the plaza that currently exists on the roof of the Detention Center.

Under the terms of the January 15 agreement, Opus would pay $10 million for the land. The developer and City have acknowledged any future project at the site would likely require public financing from the City.

While this is highly marketable land, it is not without its challenges. The new Wabasha Bridge and the Adult Detention Center share structural elements that will make demolition of the Detention Center more difficult. A previous effort to redevelop the property fizzled in late 2006 as the condo market softened and as builders grappled with the notable site challenges.

FMR acknowledges those real challenges and opportunities, as we look forward to engaging a coordinated process for public review. Inevitably, many stakeholders will have thoughts on the project, and we hope to ensure that input is directed in a way that politically and practically enhances the projects clear promise of success in transforming a key Saint Paul riverfront location.

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Saturday, April 20, 2024 - 9:30am to 12:00pm
West River Parkway and 36th Street/44th Street, Minneapolis
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