Pioneer Press –
With several strong proposals to choose from, the board in charge of redeveloping the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills chose the company that promised to focus first on creating a quality residential development hand-in-hand with a vibrant town center.
Alatus LLC of Minneapolis was chosen Monday night by a unanimous vote of the TCAAP Joint Development Authority from among three candidates to redevelop the 427-acre site. JDA members said any of the proposals would have been worthy of selection, but the Alatus vision seemed most likely to spawn a distinctive and exciting community as quickly as possible.
“One team had an attention to vision, an attention to quality and sense of place, of something special,” said JDA Commissioner David Grant. He said that team was Alatus.
Alatus recently partnered with the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx to revitalize the historically troubled Block E in downtown Minneapolis into what’s now known as Mayo Clinic Square.
Bob Lux, president of Alatus, said he looks forward to working with Arden Hills on the project.
“Together, we will create a welcoming, nature-inspired community with green spaces, bike paths and trails as well as exceptional single and multi-family housing, innovative commercial space and a vibrant walkable town center district that includes a diverse mix of retail and unique destination restaurants,” Lux said in a written statement after the vote.
The other candidates for the TCAAP project were Opus Development Co. and Ryan Cos., both also of Minneapolis.
The ammunition plant, constructed during World War II and permanently closed in 1976, once employed as many as 26,000 people. Now known as Rice Creek Commons, the site at the junction of Interstate 35W and U.S. 10 is expected to generate significant interest from people looking for a new place to live, run a business or grow a company. The master plan includes about 160 acres each of commercial and residential properties built around a network of parks and trails.
While Opus and Ryan both expressed a commitment to develop a successful town center, they indicated that other phases should come first. Alatus, on the other hand, said they would begin by developing residential neighborhoods together with a town center featuring a regional grocer, national fitness provider and other retail.
“They expressed a strong interest in establishing a sense of place quickly and very early on,” said JDA Chairman David Sand.
Alatus would partner with Tradition Development Corp., the company behind Cobblestone Lake in Apple Valley, for the residential component of the project. Sand said he sees a similar village, built around water elements and community gathering spots, developing at the TCAAP site. He said corporate tenants, possibly medical technology companies, would follow. Alatus plans to partner with Inland Development Partners for that part of the project.
Sand said he sees a similar village, built around water elements and community gathering spots, developing at the TCAAP site. He said corporate tenants, possibly medical technology companies, would follow.
Commissioner Rafael Ortega said he believed Opus might have an advantage in identifying corporate partners to begin bringing jobs to the site, but in the end he joined the other commissioners in supporting the Alatus vision.
Arden Hills and Ramsey County staff now will begin negotiating a developer agreement with Alatus. Once the JDA approves that agreement, Alatus will negotiate purchase of the site from Ramsey County. The county purchased the site from the U.S. government in 2013 for $30 million and spent two years cleaning it up after previous redevelopment plans, including one by Ryan, fell through largely because of contamination at the old ammunition plant.
A purchase agreement with Alatus should be in place by the end of this year, and construction could begin next year. The total redevelopment is expected to unfold over the next 15 years. Ramsey County plans to put another $17 million into the site for roads and utilities, said Heather Worthington, deputy county manager.
By: Jaime Delage
Date: May 2, 2016
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