RiverCentre planning ramps up

Finance & Commerce

By: William Morris December 11, 2019 4:21 pm

St. Paul leaders won’t lack for options as they plan for the future of the aging RiverCentre parking ramp across Kellogg Boulevard from Xcel Energy Center.

Six developers, both local and national, have submitted plans for projects on or around the 49-year-old ramp, which is due for substantial repairs or replacement to address salt and chloride damage, an outdated design and other deficiencies.

Officials want to see more than simply a newer parking structure on the 3.4-acre site, and the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority published a solicitation for proposals in October to “maximize the potential of this key downtown St. Paul site and that complement and/or support nearby facilities” such as the RiverCentre convention center.

As of the Dec. 6 submission deadline, the city had received responses from Reuter Walton Development and Sherman Associates, both of Minneapolis; Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins; Denver-based Swerdling & Associates; and Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, an agency of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Capital City Properties, the nonprofit arm of the St. Paul Port Authority, also submitted a proposal.

Sherman Associates is one of several developers intrigued by the air rights above the current ramp, which are included in the solicitation. Sherman’s proposal envisions a 250 to 350-room hotel built atop the ramp and connected directly to Xcel Energy Center. Just to the east, Sherman would build a 25-floor residential tower of roughly 250 units, which would connect both to the ramp and hotel as well as a revitalized river promenade.

In an interview, CEO George Sherman said the company has long been interested in the downtown St. Paul riverfront, including a proposal it submitted to redevelop the nearby West Publishing site at 50 Kellogg Blvd. W. That project eventually was awarded to Los Angeles-based AECOM, but Sherman said the RiverCentre site actually better fits Sherman’s goals for the area, including a strong connection to the river and high-profile housing and hospitality development.

“Our housing proposal allows both the amenity of the downtown and connection to the downtown but also the walkability of the river so it’s a little bit more accessible,” Sherman said, noting a river walk and river balcony that are incorporated into the proposal. As for the hotel, “Xcel Center does have a demand for hotel rooms connected to it from the number of events it has, and someone is going to propose a hotel connected to the center.”

Cuningham Group is designing the Sherman proposal, and Kraus-Anderson is lined up as contractor. Sherman estimates the project would cost about $200 million.

“We’ve spent a lot of time making sure this is a Class A project, both design-wise and marketing-wise, and we think that it adds a tremendous image to the city of St. Paul’s riverfront,” he said.

Flaherty & Collins has previously developed the 2700 University apartments in St. Paul and The Residence at the Cor in Ramsey. For RiverCentre, they also envision a mix of hotel and housing, with 250 or more market-rate apartments and a roughly 200-key hotel, said Ryan Cronk, vice president for development. Part of the $145 million development again will go atop the ramp, which Cronk expects will need to be completely reconstructed, and the plan includes some streetfront commercial space as well.

“Obviously we think it’s great real estate. We love St. Paul,” Cronk said.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, which operates the nearby InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront and other St. Paul hotels, submitted plans for a 500-room hotel with extensive ballroom and conference space, complemented by a dine-in movie theatre, a “game-and-gather” venue, and more than 100,000 square feet of office space. Spokesperson Sarah Barten said in a statement the project aims to provide “a mixed-use lifestyle development uniquely positioned to connect residents and visitors alike to the best St. Paul has to offer.

A spokesperson for the St. Paul Port Authority declined to comment on their proposal, as did Reuter Walton. Swerdling & Associates did not respond to inquiries before deadline.

The city wants to move forward with a private development at the same time it repairs or replaces the existing ramp to ensure both plans are on the same page and to capitalize on the 2018 state bonding bill, which offered $5 million for demolition of the ramp, principal project manager Andrew Hestness told Finance & Commerce in October.

In the coming weeks, HRA and RiverCentre Convention and Visitors Authority staff will review the proposals and meet with each development team. City staff will recommend their pick, if any, for tentative developer status to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority at a later public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.