Updated 2:30 p.m.
A proposal to build high-end apartments, retail shops and a hotel across from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul won preliminary approval from the city's housing authority Wednesday.
City staff selected a proposal last week by The Opus Group and Greco Development for the Seven Corners Gateway site, which is now a parking lot.
"This is exciting," said St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune, whose ward includes downtown. "It's been a parking lot way too long."
The 2.38 acre lot borders Smith Avenue, Kellogg Boulevard and Fifth Street. It's across the street from the stadium and close to the Dorothy Day Center, which offers shelter and services for the homeless.
City documents describe the centerpiece of the development as a "public plaza and activity center" and envisions ground-floor shops and restaurants with patio seating. It "will contribute to the sense of place and provide 'eyes on the street,' creating an urban experience that does not currently exist in St. Paul."
St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority members are considering the proposal appointing Opus and Greco as tentative developers of the site. The developers will have to meet 17 benchmarks during the next 18 months in order to move forward to final approval, including conducting an environmental review, identifying a hotel owner and seeking input from stakeholders.
Documents released by the city don't include many details on how much the land would be sold for or how much the proposed development would cost. It does note that the agency's policy is to sell property at market rates, and that any lower price would be considered a public subsidy.
A staff report to the housing authority released Wednesday recommended the development team of Opus and Greco, saying they have the "experience and financial capacity to successfully undertake the development of the site." The report says the team has come up with a "proposal that will fit well with surrounding area uses."
Opus is also building a similar development down the block at the site of the former Ace Seven Corners Hardware on West Seventh Street.
The city issued a request for proposals on July 14 after receiving several inquiries about the availability of the land. Opus and Greco and Mortenson Development both submitted proposals, but the city's review team announced last week that it chose Opus and Greco.