June 03–When Ryan Garcia looks around South St. Paul, he sees potential.
Garcia is the city’s economic-development manager — the first in the city’s storied history. Hired last year after an economic development authority was created, he was asked to breathe new life into a first-ring suburb that is still trying to establish a new identity following the demise of the meat-packing plants in the 1960s and 1970s and the stockyards’ closure in 2008.
“All I want to do is bring jobs and tax base to this community,” Garcia, 40, said recently.
So far, so good.
Two big warehouse and office projects are underway in BridgePoint Business Park — an area north of Interstate 494 and east of Concord Street that for decades was home to meat-packing plants and stockyards.
Several other commercial developments are either in the works or being proposed, including a restaurant just off Concord Street.
For newer suburbs, the projects would be considered relatively minor. But for South St. Paul, where economic progress has been slow and sporadic, the renewed interest is seen as a long time coming, said Steve King, city administrator since 2003.
“I can say that there’s more going on now than any other year I’ve been here,” he said. “There are just a lot of things that are coming in for proposals and moving forward. It’s going well.”
Projects in progress or being proposed include:
* A 68,000-square-foot new headquarters building for Rihm Kenworth, a St. Paul-based commercial truck dealership that will occupy about five acres at the edge of the growing BridgePoint Business Park
* A 20,000-square-foot office and warehouse building for Cobra Transportation — a St. Paul-based trucking company — on formerly city-owned land in BridgePoint Business Park
* A 270,000-square-foot FedEx distribution center on land south of I-494 and east of Concord Street
* An expansion and renovation of Twin City Hide and Twin City Tanning, two of the last vestiges of the stockyards
* A 7,000-square-foot MidWest One Bank branch on the north side of Southview Boulevard, between Ninth and 10th streets
* A three-story, 27-unit market-rate apartment building on South Street, near the city’s airport
According to city documents, Greg Miller, a partner with Interstate Partners, is interested in building a 5,000-square-foot “casual upscale” restaurant across the road from BridgePoint Business Park.
Since about 2012, Interstate Partners has built more than 325,000 square feet of office and warehouse space in the business park.
Miller, whose development portfolio includes Brookside Bar and Grill in Marine on St. Croix, has zeroed in on city-owned land off Concord Exchange, between Al’s Corral Bar and DeLacy Automotive, according to city documents.
Meanwhile, just up the road, at Concord Exchange and Grand Avenue, sits an empty 1970s-era, four-story office building that caught the eye of VSM Real Estate. The St. Paul-based real-estate and investment firm has a purchase agreement in place to buy the building from Lake Area Bank, according to city documents.
According to VSM’s business plan, up to $3 million would be pumped into the 70,000-square-foot building during several renovation phases, with the objective to diversify the city’s workforce by adding 300 to 400 white-collar jobs.
The building’s last tenant was Wells Fargo Shareholders Services, which left in late 2011. Over the years, a few “tire-kickers” have looked at it for everything from housing to a charter school, Garcia said.
“For South St. Paul, my feeling is that this is a very important corner, a very important building,” he said. “It has stood vacant for quite some time as a monument to what some folks might mistake South St. Paul as, which is sort of a downtrodden nowhere land. So it’s important for us to get this right.”
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