Minnesota United Soccer Stadium Meeting Reveals Signs of Progress

by on 27 February 2017

Some very concrete plans were revealed for the first time at a recent City of St. Paul site plan meeting for the Midway soccer stadium. Demolition of the Rainbow Foods building is scheduled for mid-May with remediation of contaminated soil happening simultaneously. Actual construction could begin in September, when building permits are expected to be completed. However, a two-acre plot of land still stands in the way of construction.

The future Minnesota United soccer stadium will sit in the area of St. Paul that is overseen by the Union Park District Council (UPDC). According to Julie Reiter, executive director of the UPDC, a number of details were revealed at the soccer stadium site plan meeting held on Feb. 14. In a post on the UPDC website, Reiter reported that May 16 is a target date for “earthwork and the demolition of Rainbow Foods.” Big Top Liquor is not scheduled to be torn down until the spring of 2018.

Eventually, Shields Street, currently only on the west side of Snelling Avenue, will be extended through where Big Top now sits and skirt around the north end of the stadium.

Revised Midway Center site plan

This summer, all utilities will be brought onto the site and rough grading of some of the planned streets will begin. It was reported at the meeting that 130,000 yards of soil will be extracted and removed from the bus barn property. Xcel Energy has been working all winter along St. Anthony Avenue to prepare for the upcoming electrical needs of the stadium.

It was also discussed that talks are ongoing for the redevelopment of both the west and north side of Midway Center, but no tall business buildings are being discussed as was in the original site plan.

At one point last summer, Prime Therapeutics seemed interested in moving their headquarters to the Midway Center redevelopment site, which would have required several large buildings. Then in October, Twin Cities Business Journal’s Nick Halter reported that the Midway Center redevelopment was no longer in the running for the relocation of 2,000 Prime Therapeutic jobs. Ramsey County and the St. Paul Port Authority were either unwilling or unable to come up with subsidies that Prime was looking for.

Scaled down redevelopment on the west side of the shopping center — most likely retail and entertainment — would reflect that change. Midway Center land owner Rick Birdoff, who owns more than 30 shopping centers across the U.S, previously stated that the northwest corner of his property, which borders University and Snelling, is the most valuable. The New York-based Birdoff subdivided that portion of his property several years ago in order to facilitate redevelopment.

However, despite all the positive talk at the site plan meeting, there is still a major obstacle that must be overcome. A two-acre plot of land at the north end of the stadium is still needed before construction can begin.

The bulk of the stadium will be built on the 9.5 acres of property, known as the “bus barn” site, owned by the Met Council. The City of St. Paul will lease the land and Minnesota United will make payments.

Rainbow Foods and Midway Center

Team owner Bill McGuire had hoped to purchase the extra two acres he needed from Birdoff. But SuperValu, which owns Rainbow, had a long-term lease on the property and was the shopping center’s anchor tenant. That complicated the matter. Rainbow’s lease was Birdoff’s largest income producer and as is the case in most large shopping centers, an anchor tenant is expected by all other tenants to help drive business. The shopping center owner can also ask more in rent with a major anchor tenant. With Rainbow gone, not only would Birdoff lose the rent payments from SuperValu but merchants could ask for cheaper leases.

SuperValu was reportedly protective of their lease even though they own a Cub supermarket just two blocks from the Rainbow. In the competitive world of retail, their concern was that another store, such as Hy-Vee, might come in and compete with Cub if they allowed the lease to be broken.

The year-long standoff between Birdoff and McGuire finally made some progress when the St. Paul Port Authority (SPPA) stepped in this winter and made the property an Industrial Development District. That move allowed the Port Authority to help negotiate a deal to keep things moving. The SPPA started creating a master lease from RK Midway, Bridoff’s holding company.

Area of the shopping center that the SPPA would sublet from RK Midway.

At last month’s board meeting, the SPPA passed a motion to allow President Lee Krueger to enter into a master lease with Birdoff to work on the redevelopment of the property east of the strip along Snelling Avenue which RK Midway wants to develop. The SPPA has stated they are working on negotiating an agreement with another developer, most likely local, that will work with the property north and east of the stadium.

Upon signing any sort of lease, the SPPA has 120 days to do due diligence to ensure the financial viability of the project. The deal also allows the third party developer an option to purchase the land from RK Midway.

Krueger told FiftyFive.One last week that he hopes to have the real estate deal with a new developer for the property done by the monthly board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28. However, he cautioned that all the details necessary had yet to be completely worked out. “Things have to happen to make the math work,” said Krueger.

If the Port Authority is able to pull together a local developer to work on the eastern portion of Midway Center, it will be dealing with lots of contingencies and long-term leases. Not all tenants will be able to stay while construction happens. Birdoff had said previously that he would try to find property to relocate some of his tenants and could move others within the Midway Center itself. Which means some leases may have to be bought out, particularly Rainbow Foods.

“There have been discussions going on, but not lead by us,” said Krueger regarding negotiations to buy out SuperValu’s lease. “A deal isn’t done, but it’s imminent.”

Other details reported on by UPDC:

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