Massive development set for old arsenal site in Arden Hills

TCAAP redevelopment
This rendering shows the upcoming Rice Creek Commons
Submitted image

The former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site finally has future.

The Ramsey County Board approved an agreement that'll transform the old arsenal into the Rice Creek Commons, a development named for a stream that runs through the 427-acre site in Arden Hills.

It's been more than a decade after the last military ammunition rolled out of the site, but officials say it's going to fill soon with homes and jobs. Construction is set to begin in a few months.

The site is one of the biggest remaining development opportunities in the Twin Cities, Ramsey County commissioner Blake Huffman said.

"You think about northern Ramsey County and the fact that we can add 3,000 to 4,000 jobs, and 1,500 housing units, and a robust entertainment facility along with $10 million to 15 million a year of property tax revenue, it means the world," he said.

Alatus developer Bob Lux said Rice Creek Commons represents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to build the equivalent of a small city almost from scratch.

"The typical suburban downtown has been surface parking lots, surrounded by strip retail," he said. "Our solution was creating a downtown of retail, multi-family, senior housing, a civic component, all on top of a structured parking facility."

The redevelopment agreement has been a long time, and many failed attempts, in the making.

Homes and businesses were proposed for the site, as was a giant regional post office.

The Vikings even struck a deal to build their new stadium there in 2011. None of it panned out — in part because it was a highly polluted Superfund site, contaminated with everything from solvents to PCBs to depleted uranium.

But Ramsey County bought the site from the Army for $30 million and set to work on the cleanup that was giving developers doubts about the site.

There have been some battles along the way, as residents nearby have questioned the planned density of the development and the size of the buildings planned for the site.

Lux said the 10-story-high mid-rise residential buildings give the site the density it needs to work financially, while still allowing the park land and other amenities that will make the site attractive.

Infrastructure construction will start next year, Lux said, and residents may start moving into the new area as soon as 2018.

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