Another step from TCAAP to Rice Creek Commons: master developer chosen


Alatus, LLC was named master developer of Rice Creek Commons, a 427-arce plot of land in Arden Hills, also known as the former TCAAP site.

This rendering teases an idea of what the former TCAAP site might look like once redevelopment is complete.

As of last week, the metro area’s largest development project has a master developer. 

The Rice Creek Commons Joint Development Authority Board — elected officials from both Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills — announced its vote in favor of Alatus, LLC, May 2. The firm has been chosen to drive the development of the former TCAAP site in Arden Hills. 

The JDA’s 5-0 vote put the Minneapolis-based real estate development company in a position desired by several other major developers that sought to manage the project. 

 

Work could begin next year

Rice Creek Commons, perhaps better known as the former home of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, is a 427-acre plot of land about 10 minutes from both the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns. For years it remained unused with pollution issues, including contaminated groundwater as well as on-site soil contamination, due to disposal of industrial waste.

The JDA announced that the vacant site was thoroughly cleaned last November, and now that a developer has been chosen, it can begin to plan and pilot the overall development of residential and commercial projects on the TCAAP site, a geographical area slightly larger than downtown St. Paul.

Officials said Alatus could begin work as early as late 2017 or early 2018. 

 

Scope of the development

Officials from Arden Hills and Ramsey County, which owns the property, are looking to turn the space into a modern-day model community, with solar-power and a focus on being more environmentally friendly. 

Preliminary road construction is already underway this summer in anticipation of the project. Ramps will eventually be added, connecting local roads to interstates and highways, including Interstate 35W, Interstate 694 and Highway 10, which together wrap around the site, allowing for easy access to the future community.

“We are privileged to have some of the best developers in the country located in our backyard, and they really brought their A-game to this process,” JDA chair David Sand said in a statement. “We are confident that Alatus will work closely with us to make sure that Rice Creek Commons becomes a vibrant, first-class development that attracts people of all ages to live, work and play.”

 

The developer

According to the JDA, Alatus has built a number of different types of projects in its decade of existence, including office, apartment and single-family home developments.

For the Rice Creek Commons project, Alatus said it would team up with Inland Development Partners on commercial development and Tradition Development Corporation on single-family residential development.

Alatus had a hand in creating Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis and Cobbleston Lake, the single-family home development in Apple Valley.

 

A nature-inspired community

“We are honored to be chosen as master developer for the Arden Hills development,” president of Alatus Bob Lux said in a statement. “The timing of this project is ideal given the current economic climate and housing market.”

Lux said his team will focus on building a nature-inspired community containing green spaces, bike paths and trails, along with a “vibrant walkable town center district,” which will include a combination of retail stores and “destination restaurants.”

Alatus will now enter into negotiations with Ramsey County and Arden Hills on a development agreement for the site, and with Ramsey County alone on a purchase agreement. Both agreements are expected to be finalized before the end of 2016 — the purchase price of the site that Alatus estimated has yet to be released.

 

The criteria 

Before choosing Alatus, the JDA had said it was looking for a team prepared to develop a smattering of housing, commercial and retail projects.

There was no asking price included in the request for proposals, nor were there specifics on the timing in regards to the project’s completion.

Instead, developers were asked to formulate plans and cost estimates, which have not been released.

Prior to he county sending out the RFP, it had already invested about $30 million into the site. 

Most of those funds were funneled into the demolition and remediation of the site’s buildings and its polluted soil. 

 

Making sure it’s clean

Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman, who sits on the JDA board and helped negotiate the RFP, said in November that the land was prepared for residential use.

But the soil is currently in the voluntary process of being verified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It is exciting to see the incredible progress being made in a part of our community that has been underutilized for far too long,” said Huffman, who represents the area around the TCAAP site. “I believe we have a true partner in Alatus, and I am excited to work with them to return this vacant property to economic and social prominence.”

 

Background

At its height, the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant employed 26,000 people and supported the war effort from when it opened in 1941 through the end of World War II in 1945, manufacturing small arms ammunition.

The site was operating again during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and then shut down completely in 2005 and was purchased by Ramsey County in 2013 for $28 million.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

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