St. Paul Port Authority approves plan to buy unused COVID morgue

The St. Paul Port Authority is poised to buy the building the state bought last year as a prospective temporary morgue as the COVID-19 pandemic picked up.

The former produce warehouse was already outfitted for cold storage when Gov. Tim Walz’s administration bought it for $5.5 million to avoid storing bodies in refrigerated trailers. The purchase drew derision from critics, who said the death toll would never reach that point in Minnesota — which it did not.

Port Authority spokesperson Andrea Novak said the building was originally part of a Port Authority industrial redevelopment. She said the port wanted to buy it back to maximize employment in the city.

“We've seen owners selling for self-storage. And that's a good business opportunity — there's a need for it in the market,” Novak said. “The challenge with self-storage is that those businesses take a lot space and offer minimal jobs.”

The port moved ahead on a sale Tuesday, scheduled to close by Nov. 30 for $5.6 million.

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