'Urban village' plan unveiled for St. Paul soccer stadium site

Stadium district
Bill McGuire, owner of the Minnesota United soccer franchise, unveiled this preliminary plan for redevelopment of the district around his proposed new stadium near University and Snelling avenues in St. Paul.
Courtesy of RK Midway

A new soccer stadium proposed for St. Paul could be surrounded by an "urban village" including homes, shops, a fitness club, a movie theater and even a skating rink.

Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire presented that vision to a neighborhood group in St. Paul on Thursday evening, as he unveiled a proposed site plan for the southeast corner of Snelling and University avenues, a 35-acre tract that's now an aging strip mall and the vacant site of a Metro Transit bus barn.

"It is not next week. It is an ultimate development plan ... the time frame which is almost impossible to state," McGuire said.

The plan focuses on a strip mall dating back to the 1950s, on a 24-acre site. Office Max, Walgreens, Rainbow Foods and Big Top Liquors are among the retail stores that operate there.

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McGuire said the mall's owner, RK Midway, has been working with S9 Architecture on the site plan and that they've conceptually restored a 12-block street grid to the site.

The planned 20,000-seat soccer stadium would be located in the center, abutting St. Anthony Avenue, a frontage road for Interstate 94 to the south of the site.

"Relative to the uses, there are really seven, one being soccer. But on the plat itself — office space, residential, retail, hotel or hospitality, entertainment and open space," McGuire told the group.

He said a variety of buildings would have ground-floor, outward-facing retail with office and residential development on higher floors — up to 15 stories up. The site would have year-round use and host events beyond games in the stadium, he added.

McGuire didn't offer a budget on his stadium or the surrounding development. He said the stadium would likely cost more than $120 million he initially proposed and he would not invest in the site beyond the stadium.

He said he would like the team to be playing in a new home by 2018. McGuire didn't offer any renderings of his stadium, but suggested he could have something to show off by the end of February.

The presentation drew a fair amount of comment among members of the Snelling-Midway Community Advisory Committee, and particular concern about parking in the area and including affordable housing in the development mix.

City Council President Russ Stark, who watched McGuire's presentation, offered some initial approval, although he noted that there were many details to be worked out. He said he was impressed with the options for public space in what has been an industrial and commercial corridor.

"There's a lot of businesses people patronize, there are a lot of interesting spots, but there isn't that space where you go and hang out and spend time and linger in this part of town," Stark said. "I'm really pleased to see the amount of public open space proposed in the middle of the area."

The plans call for the project to be mostly privately funded, including the soccer stadium, although the city has expressed some willingness to help pay for public infrastructure.

The city has already commissioned a transportation study for the site, to assess how much parking the project might require.

The city is also asking for a property tax exemption on the stadium — which will be city-owned — as well as a sales tax exemption on construction materials for the stadium.

A public meeting on the plan is scheduled for March 15.

The master plan is expected to go to the city's planning commission in April, and for a vote by the City Council later this year.