Downtown St. Paul business owners expect lift from light rail

Light rail should deliver a boost to St. Paul's downtown when the trains start running next year, a building owners group said Monday.

The Green Line — together with the Union Depot's upcoming transition into a transit hub with bus, light rail, and Amtrak connections — should lead to future opportunities for businesses and consumers, the Greater St. Paul Building Owners & Managers Association said in a new study.

"There's a lot of interesting things happening that I think are creating excitement," said Pat Wolf, co-chair of the group's leasing and marketing committee. "I think the next few years in downtown St. Paul will be fun to see and be a part of."

Overall occupancy in downtown St. Paul office units remains steady at about 90 percent. It's about 80 percent for privately owned, multi-tenant office buildings.

It's unclear, though, if the market can support an upscale office tower, which is one idea that Mayor Chris Coleman has floated for the former Macy's site.

"It depends on if that anchor tenant is coming from an existing building in downtown, in which case that would open up a gap in that building and create more vacancy, or whether they're actually a new tenant," said Wolf.

A San Francisco-based real estate investment firm had plans to buy the building, but it's unclear if or when the deal will close.