– Pioneer Press
There is a dual vision for the members of the team charged with developing the biggest chunk of empty land in Ramsey County. It’s a vision for the community and it’s a vision for their companies.
They see a once heavily polluted 427-acre ammunition plant being transformed into a premiere destination to live, work and play. They also see it as an “extraordinary opportunity” to leave a mark on the area.
Recently selected as the master developer for the Rice Creek Commons site in Arden Hills — formerly the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant — Alatus LLC is partnering with Inland Development Partners and Tradition Development Corp. to build a neighborhood from scratch.
Alatus is expected to bring the multifamily rental housing component, Inland will tackle commercial development and Tradition Development single-family home and townhouse construction.
When fully built-out over the next 10 to 15 years, the development is expected to add some 3,000 residents to the St. Paul suburb, now with a 9,500 population. The plan is to create a sustainable, walkable community full of housing, retail and good-paying jobs, built around a network of parks, trails and a “town center.” The parcel is at the junction of Interstate 35W and U.S.10.
“This is one of those sites that is very unique given its proximity to Minneapolis and St. Paul and so for us as a team to be involved in something so transformative at this stage in our careers is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Tom Shaver, one of the co-founders of Inland Development. “(We) all want to be able to look back on this and be very proud of what we’ve done.”
MEET THE TEAM
One of the reasons so much is at stake for the companies, particularly Alatus, is that it beat out two much more experienced local developers — Ryan Cos. and Opus Development Co. — for the job.
The people involved in them have deep roots in local development.
Bob Lux, president of Alatus, which was founded in 2005, has been in the development game for more than 30 years. His portfolio includes the Carlyle Condominiums, Grand Park Condominiums and the upscale apartment complex Latitude 45, all in Minneapolis.
Inland Development launched this past year, but its co-founders Shaver and Kent Carlson both had long careers with Opus and Ryan respectively before starting the new company, which focuses on office, industrial and retail development.
Carlson had a hand in the mixed-use development, Dean Lakes, in Shakopee, as well as Centre Pointe Business Park in Roseville. Shaver helped transform a 31-acre brownfield site in Hopkins into a Cargill corporate campus. He was also involved in building UnitedHealth Group’s headquarters in Minnetonka.
Todd Stutz is president of Robert Thomas Homes, a company under the Tradition corporate umbrella, and has been involved in real estate for more than three decades. Tradition Development likely has the most direct experience tackling projects on the scale of Rice Creek Commons. In recent years it served as the residential developer on Cobblestone Lake, a 320-acre mixed use development now almost fully built-out in Apple Valley, as well as Spirit of Brandtjen Farm, a 510-acre development underway in Lakeville.
It’s the diversity of expertise on the team, as well as its commitment to bringing in other area builders for the project, that will help make the development distinctive, team members said.
Q AND A
Two weeks after being selected, three of the four principals discussed their vision for the project and what the road ahead looks like. Their responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
So now that you guys have the job, what happens next?
Lux (Alatus): There is a lot of discovery right now. (Reviewing) all the reports that have been done to date, refining the market studies, refine our concept plans, branding concepts in conjunction with the Joint Development Authority (the board overseeing the development, from Arden Hills and Ramsey County). Also, getting information from them on their sweet spots, on what is important for them. They have spent literally thousands of hours to get to this point; we want to make sure we understand what they want.
Shaver (Inland): When we say sweet spots we mean goals. The county has a set of goals and the city has a set of goals and we are starting to pull those out of them to bring forward into the plan.
Lux: Over the next six months we (also will) finalize the development contract and the purchase agreement (on the land).
Speaking of that, will Alatus be buying the land on its own or is the team buying it? Will it be purchased in phases or all at once?
Lux: Alatus (will purchase it). I am pretty sure it will be done in phases.
Let’s assume everything goes smoothly with negotiations on the contract language and purchase price, when might residents actually start to see dirt flying on the site?
Lux: I think we would start to implement the development in late 2017 or early 2018.
Shaver: There is a lot of dirt flying already actually. There has been a lot of pre-development work that has taken place for bridge infrastructure, additional road infrastructure, environmental cleanup.The foresight the city and the county had to do that in anticipation of bringing on a master developer speaks volumes to their ability to work together. That’s one of the great things we are benefiting from and now it’s our job to bring our expertise and leverage to that work going forward.
One of the county’s goals is for this development to create about 4,000 high-wage jobs on the site. It also wants to see 50 percent of the developable acres occupied by office, manufacturing and retail. Do those goals seem realistic?
Shaver: They are certainly attainable.
Has there been any corporate interest in the site so far? How will your team work to land the corporate players it needs to meet the county’s employment and economic goals?
Shaver: Land O’Lakes was attracted to the site. The Vikings were attracted to the site, so there has definitely been interest. Going forward (we are going to engage) the JDA, the city and the county on a broader marketing approach that will (target) not only corporate clients in the Twin Cities but also regionally and nationally. (This site) has that kind of appeal.
One of the things we are doing as the result of the mixed-use component is really creating an amenity package that will be used to attract and retain employers. This site has a significant draw from an employee perspective and as you get into a tighter labor market, having those amenities (retail, restaurants, trails and parks, apartments, single-family homes) to be able to support a corporate campus is going to be critical. We want this to be a place you can live, work and play.
Lux: That is what really differentiates this site from a development approach compared to just building a building in a location on an interchange. From a corporate user standpoint we can really offer a (package) others don’t have.
Let’s talk about housing; what can we expect there?
Todd Stutz (Tradition): The master plan calls for roughly 1,400 housing units that will be a mix of different forms that appeal to different demographics. Roughly 330 will be single family or townhomes. The rest will be multifamily.
For the for-sale homes, we have solicited other builders to be part of our builder group that have experience in the far east suburban market of the cities. So not only will (buyers) have a diversity of housing types but also a wide variety of (builders).
Regarding the range of homes, what might the prices be on the low end and high end?
Stutz: It will ultimately translate to a mix of prices (and lot sizes) that appeal to a broad demographic. We don’t have pricing established at this point but we know there will be some upper-end custom homes and some more affordable townhomes.
There is a significant segment of today’s home buyers that would be classified as nontraditional, (millennials, empty nesters, retirees), so we would expect to offer products.
How do you appeal to those nontraditional families?
Stutz: Certainly homes that are on one level for empty nesters and retirees. Generally (millennials) are interested in smaller lots. They don’t want to spend their free time mowing their yard. So they are interested in perhaps smaller homes but they expect top-end finishes.
We’ll be doing some market research to try and explore what preferences are in this area and make sure we have a match.
What about apartments, what can we expect there?
Lux: We will definitely have a senior component, definitely a component leaning toward Millennials and their desires. They want smaller apartments with extraordinarily high levels of finishes and community space. It’s really making making sure the amenity packages on the apartments will be very attractive to the employees of the corporate user. So making sure people can bike or walk to work and come back to a (nearby) restaurant.
The apartments will be located in the development’s Town Center along with restaurants, a fitness center, a grocery store, coffee shops and other kinds of retail.
How will this development become a part of Arden Hills, and not just a community plopped within it?
Lux: A lot of that will be (due to the amenities) we plan to offer.The restaurants, the grocery store, those will be draws for the greater community, and not just for Arden Hills but regionally. We are really being cognizant that the part of Arden Hills located (outside) the development feels welcome.
Shaver: There is also the 50-acre natural resource corridor that will weave its way through the development, and the 24 acres of active park space. Also the 202 acres of (green space), and the links to the regional trail system.
What will come first, attracting employers to the site or building out the residential neighborhoods?
Shaver: The amenities being brought to the site, the Town Center and the single family homes and some of the retail that has expressed early interest will be the catalyst that will allow us to attract a corporate user.
Can you say where some of that early retail interest is coming from?
Shaver: Not at this time.
OK, any other final comments any of you would like to make?
Lux: Our goal is to make this something that is not only a legacy project for the four of us but also something that is looked at from the community of Arden Hills and Ramsey County as being a spectacular solution to what was formerly a not-so-spectacular site.
By: Sarah Horner
Date: June 16, 2016
View original article and images here.