A Major League Soccer franchise is coming to the Twin Cities area, and the owners are planning to build a soccer-specific stadium at Snelling and University, on the former "bus barn site" owned by Metro Transit and extending onto some of the Midway Center private property. For official information on the plans, visit the City's Snelling-Midway Redevelopment Site webpage. The City has hosted numerous open houses to present the Midway Center Master Plan, Stadium Site Plan, and the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (environmental review) to the public, and the plans have also gone through a formal review process at the City. You can view the presentations that have been given at those meetings on the Snelling-Midway Redevelopment Site.
Community Meeting Update
At our community meeting on July 13th, residents turned out to the Midpointe Event Center to hear updates on the stadium construction. Representatives from the Port Authority, Mortenson Construction, MN United, and the City of St. Paul updated the crowd on issues around the construction timelines, neighborhood impacts, and near-term plans for the site. Below is a summary of the presentations, followed by some of the questions and concerns raised by residents.
The first presenter was Lee Kreuger, the President of the St. Paul Port Authority. Lee discussed the role of the Port Authority in the process. The Port Authority is working to obtain a short-term Master Lease agreement with R.K. Midway for a section of land included in the City of Saint Paul’s master plan. The lease has not been finalized, and no agreement has been reached with the developer that has been identified to take control of the lease. More on this process can be found on the Port Authority's blog, which has an informative description of the deal.
The second presenter was Greg Huber of Mortenson Construction. He provided an update on what has been done since construction started in June and a rough timeline of construction moving forward. Most work to date has been utility work and the beginning of digging for the foundation. He noted that the work with the greatest noise impact -- pile driving -- has been completed, and no more will be needed on the site. Moving forward most construction will occur between 7am and 6pm. Greg told residents that if there are any concerns about noise, or safety issues around the site that they should contact Mortenson construction by phone at 763-522-2100, or stop in to speak at the construction site office on Snelling and Shields in the old Furniture Barn building, which will be open from 6am to 5pm most workdays.
The co-chairs of the Midway Resident Task Force, Eric Molho and Nate Roisen, provided an overview of their role and their goals for the task force. The task force is intended to represent the neighborhood during the construction process. They plan to advocate for resident concerns and plan to provide updates to residents as well. The membership will include members of the Union Park District Council and Hamline-Midway Coalition.
Residents had an opportunity to ask questions of the presenters, along with Bill McGuire (the owner of the team) and City of St. Paul representatives. A summary of some of the issues discussed can be found in this Pioneer Press article.
At the conclusion of the meeting we invited residents to submit questions that they would like the task force to explore. Below are some of the questions we received:
- How will parking be handled on event days at and around the site?
- How will the signage on the stadium look and when will it be lit?
- What kind of focus on the community does the team have? What are the benefits for neighbors and residents?
- If there are issues with the new stadium how will team be held accountable?
- When will we get the green spacees and right of ways shown in the master plan?
- Can TIF financing be better explained? And is there a deadline to submit a challenge to the proposed TIF financing?
- What is the transit capacity for Metro Transit and do they have an event day management plan?
- What percent of fans will use public transit and how will it be encouraged?
- How has the team been involved in the community?
- Will sound or light variances be required?
Frequently Asked Questions about the stadium project
Neighbors from across the city have had many questions about the new stadium and related redevelopment. Here are some of the most common questions we’ve heard and what we know so far.
How big is this stadium and what will it be like?
The proposed stadium will seat approximately 20,000 and be about 75 feet tall, which is about 1/3 the height of US Bank Stadium. The stadium will have a partial roof, offering cover for fans from the weather, and providing noise and light abatement for the surrounding neighborhood. For detailed images of the exterior and buildling plans, check out the Stadium Site Plan documents. You can also read this summary of an interview with McGuire for some insight into his interest in soccer and this project.
For more information on the stadium itself, check out the team's website on the new stadium.
When will it be constructed?
The team officially "broke ground" in December 2016, and construction began in June. It has been reported that the project is on hold because the stadium design requires the use of a portion of Midway Center property (currently Rainbow Foods) and no agreement has been reached between the stadium owner (McGuire) and Midway Center owner (RK Midway) on the transfer or use of that parcel of land.
The Saint Paul Port Authority has recently been authorized to enter into a lease agreement with RK Midway to help facilitate access to part of the Midway Center for stadium construction. The Port Authority's blog has an informative description of that deal.
In the meantime, the MLS team, Minnesota United, will be playing at the TCF Bank Stadium.
How often do they play games and when do they play?
The MLS regular season runs from March to October, with each team playing 34 games -- about 18 of these would be home games played at the stadium. The post-season includes twelve teams competing in the MLS Cup Playoffs through November and December. In all, the team expects that there will be 18-30 events at the stadium each year. The Minnesota United currently plays at the TCF Bank Stadium; almost all of their games are at 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
How much is this going to cost the taxpayers?
The team has committed to privately financing the entire cost of building the estimated $120 million stadium, including any overages on the project cost. At a press conference, Mayor Coleman said that only a few stadiums around the country have been entirely built with private funds, and no other stadiums in the Twin Cities have been built without any taxpayer money. However, the team is seeking tax-exempt status on the parcel once a stadium is built there. (The property is currently not taxed as it is owned by the Metropolitan Council). About $18 million in public funds will be used for infrastructure around the stadium itself, and it is projected that additional public money will be spent in the surrounding area to support redevelopment of the entire Midway Center super block.
What is TIF financing?
In short, tax increment financing (TIF) uses the increased property taxes that a new real estate development generates to finance costs of the development. The Minnesota legislature House Reserach Department has put together some basic primers on TIF financing, and how it works in Minnesota. They can be reviewed here and here.
Who will own the stadium?
Although the team is paying for the stadium, it will be publically owned. Specifically, when the stadium has been built, the team will hand over ownership of the stadium to a public stadium authority. That public authority would lease the land from Met Council (which owns the land) and the team would reimburse the stadium authority for the lease payments.
What’s going to happen to the Midway Shopping Center?
The Midway Shopping Center owner, RK Midway, has submitted a Master Plan for the entire 34.4-acre superblock bounded by University, Snelling, I-94 and Pascal. The image to the left is from the plan. The master plan is a vision of the type and amount of development the site could accommodate at full build-out. It specifies where new public open spaces and streets will go, and how the streets will be designed to serve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic. The plan includes many new buildings intended to hold retail on the street level and other uses (housing, hotel, movie theater, etc.) above.
The exact density and type of the private development actually built on the site will be determined by what market forces make feasible. Early articles addressed redevelopment potential (for example: Confirmed soccer stadium drawing developers to Midway area; and this January 2016 Pioneer Press interview with the out-going executive director of the Port Authority) but it is unclear whether RK Midway or Minnesota United owners are actively marketing the site, or whether potential developers or tenants are currently interested.
The Stadium Site Plan shows that for stadium construction, the buildings housing Big Top, Rainbow, and Walgreens will be removed, while many other existing buildlings can remain in place when the stadium opens in 2018. An RK Midway representative has told a group of tenants that it intends to honor every lease, and hopes to be able to relocate the existing businesses to new buildings as they are added over time.
Much of these plans are consistent with earlier City planning documents. As part of planning for the Green Line, there is a “Station Area Plan” for each of the Green line stations. These documents, developed in 2008 with community input, serve as the city’s guide to planning along the corridor. Key recommendations from the Snelling Station Area Plan include: 1) More intense development and a mix of uses, 2) New streets to break up the “super block,” 3) Open spaces to provide focus for redevelopment and improve pedestrian experience, and 4) Shared/structured parking to meet demand and reduce the need for surface lots.
The Union Park District Council has supported the recommendations of the station area plan, and will continue to advocate for new development in the area to achieve these goals.
What about environmental and noise impacts?
The City contracted with a consultant to conduct an Alternative Urban Areawide Review or AUAR (environmental review) to inform the development. The City has made many documents available for review on the Environmental Review webpage for this project.
The AUAR found that noise within the stadium is not not expected to exceed St Paul daytime noise level standards, however it would exceed standards for residential uses at the closest residential areas to the north and east of the stadium. This picture provides a visual of what the noise level is expected to be surrounding the stadium.
In order to keep noise level below the city limits the AUAR is requiring several mitigation strategies including the following: First, the overall system loudness of the stadium speakers will be electronically limited so that the noise level at the closest residences is below 65 dBA. Second, sporting events will be scheduled so that regulation play will be completed by 10pm. And finally, future development on the stadium site will be designed with the understanding of the activites and noise levels already occurring at the stadium.
How will traffic and parking be handled?
The AUAR (environmental review) includes a transportation study of the area. The City and the team have indicated that they are interested in promoting public transit, biking, and walking to the stadium. Accordingly, they have been studying the Green Line stations at Snelling for capacity and safety, and they are considering park-and-ride options, including at the State Fairgrounds. There are also pending conversations about the pedestrian safety at the I-94 Snelling interchange, and safe bicycle access into the site from the east and west. Councilmember Russ Stark has communicated to residents that permit parking protections in the surrounding neighborhoods will be considered.
Union Park engaged a group of University of Minnesota graduate students to provide recommendations on ways we can encourage more public transit use to the stadium. You can review their full report and a summary chart of their recommendations, which have been shared with Met Council and the City. There's also an article in the Star Tribune on their work: Getting fans to new St. Paul soccer stadium is focus of study.
How will crime and public safety be addressed?
A Senior Commander at the Saint Paul Police Department's Western District has formed a team of staff to address public safety related issues around the to the proposed stadium. He has initiated research in other jurisdictions with stadiums similar in size and scope. They have located a stadium in Texas that is a good comparison, and they are also looking at local experiences, for example, with CHS Field in Lowertown. They are determining what types of crimes are more likely to occur in the area with the influx of fans the stadium brings, and will create mitigation plans to address any projected increase in crime.
As part of this project, SPPD is developing a proposal for staffing both the interior and exterior of the stadium. At events at large venues such as this one, it is SPPD’s general operating pattern to 1) handle traffic and pedestrian flow before the event begins, 2) move into the surrounding residential areas and patrol there during the event, and 3) move back to the venue location to assist with traffic and pedestrian flow as the even ends. Similar monitoring of the neighborhoods will take place with events at this stadium.
They are also considering the need to control the flow of vehicle traffic, and to assist with pedestrian crossings. They will partner with Metro Transit police to patrol buses, trains, and light rail platforms.
How has public input been considered?
The City created a community advisory committee (CAC) to represent the broader interests of the community and provide input on the overall design and development decisions that will emerge. The CAC released a final report to the City outlining the key goals and outstanding concerns they identified. On the Midway Redevelopment site, you can review the information the City has gathered from public open houses and other means.
Has the Union Park District Council taken an official position on the stadium?
In July 2015, the Union Park District Council passed a resolution supporting further exploration of the Bus Barn site as a possible location for a Major League Soccer stadium -- if the project allows for and encourages transit-oriented, mixed-use development of the entire 34.5 acre Snelling-Midway Smart Site, consistent with the Snelling Station Area Plan.
In a resolution letter sent to Mayor Coleman and our Council Members, Union Park requested:
- Meaningful community engagement around the stadium and development.
- A comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of the whole 34.5 acre Midway Center/Bus Barn site.
- Attention to specific community concerns including traffic, parking, and potential property tax burdens.
- A focus on the stadium as a community amenity, with free or low-cost tickets and community-based uses such as cultural programs and events. This recent article has some information about the immigrant community perspective.
The Union Park District Council has also engaged community on the development. Union Park's Midway Center task force conducted outreach into the Snelling-Midway area to identify the primary desires and concerns of residents in the area. The task force presented a report and recommendations in December 2015, which were endorsed by the Union Park board in January 2016. Our report is referenced in a MinnPost article on transportation challenges in the Snelling/University area, and has been shared with the City and other entities.
Our staff attended a stadium Site Plan Review meeting held by the City on February 14, 2017. Here are a few things we learned:
- Construction plans for the stadium are moving forward. The contractor is planning for earthwork on the bus barn site this spring. Demolition of the Rainbow Foods portion of the Midway Center is also required to accommodate the current stadium plan, but it is unclear when that will happen.
- Options for private development on the west and north side of the superblock are being discussed (along Snelling, and east of the “great lawn” area). However, the city is not expecting development of tall office towers as indicated in the master plan at this time. And, the temporary parking lots on the west side of the stadium are going to be constructed (as indicated in the site plan), so it sounds like any significant development along Snelling would happen after the stadium was finished and in operation. Long-term leases on the eastern side of the superblock will likely prohibit development there for the forthcoming years.
- The Big Top Liquor building is not scheduled to go down until spring 2018. Eventually, Shields Street will cut through that area and run along the north end of the stadium.
- This summer, utilities will be brought onto the site and some new streets should be rough graded. There will be traffic disruption along Snelling Avenue for the utility work, and they’ll have to coordinate around the State Fair. There will also be a significant amount of soil export off the site – the top soil needs to be skimmed off, and there will be excavation – amounting to 130,000 yards of extra soil. Some will be used to fill the basement of the Rainbow building, but much will be hauled off-site, meaning lots of truck traffic.
- The city and team are still considering some “enhanced” infrastructure on the site, like “flat curb” streets (which allow for flexible uses, such as transforming streets into public plazas during game days), bollards for traffic control and pedestrian protection, bicycle facilities, specialty lighting, and so on.
- Issues that involve Metro Transit -- the use of light rail and bus rapid transit -- and the related concerns about traffic control, pedestrian queuing, fare collection, fences, etc., will be discussed later this summer. Metro Transit shares community concerns about walkability in the area – on game days and every day – and mentioned specifically the quality of the pedestrian experience along Snelling Avenue.
- The City’s Public Works department is advocating for widened sidewalks, especially along Snelling. There is currently no sidewalk on the north side of St. Anthony, and the stadium plan includes a publically-accessible sidewalk there, on the south side of the stadium.
- Numerous tree trenches will be installed on site as part of the water management plan. The water plan also includes roof run-off capture to irrigate the great lawn. The plan exceeds Capitol Region Watershed District standards. They anticipate capturing 309,000 gallons of runoff per year, which is ten times the capture at CHS field.
Midway Center Task Force
This Task Force was set up in April 2015 to prepare a report with community vision, goals, and strategies for redevelopment of the Midway Center superblock for consideration by the Union Park Land Use Committee and other stakeholders. It reviewed existing plans and proposals, including the Snelling Station Area Plan (2008) and the Snelling-Midway SmartSite TOD Redevelopment Strategy (2014). It then engaged the various stakeholders, including residents, business owners, and organizations, in a visioning process using surveys, community meetings, and one-on-one conversations to gather data and preferences. This outreach included participation at local events (like the Central Baptist Church block party), tabling at local businesses (like Big Top Liquor) and reaching out to local community groups and leaders.
Task Force Recommendations
To read more about each of the below recommendations, review the full report here.
In summary, the Task Force report reflects UPDC's belief that redevelopment of the Midway Center and Bus Barn site can dramatically benefit our neighborhood with new services, jobs, economic development, and beautiful places. To do so, planning for the entire superblock must address five key priorities:
1. Enhance the quality of life in the Midway
A. RK Midway should develop community outreach tools to create new lines of communication and partnership with the neighborhood
B. Minnesota United and neighbors should begin conversations now about the impact of the new stadium on neighborhood life
C. Future development should enhance the visual appeal and beauty of the Midway
D. After the site plan is approved, UPDC seeks to work with the appropriate development partners in the creation of a Construction Mitigation Plan
2. Support and utlitize local businesses and workers
A. The City of Saint Paul should develop effective measures to better understand and track the impact of redevelopment on local businesses
B. The City of Saint Paul should work with RK Midway to reach out to culturally diverse entrepreneurs and existing small businesses prior to final site plan approval
C. The City of Saint Paul should explore what public financing tools may be available to support local businesses during the redevelopment transition
D. Developers and construction firms should set specific targeted goals for the employment of local workforce and utilization of local businesses
3. Improve transportation and safety
A. Throughout the planning process, concerns about traffic, safety, and parking must be addressed clearly and specifically
B. The approved site plan should include a safety plan
C. Planning for the stadium and Midway Center should serve as a catalyst for a comprehensive review of transportation and safety issues for the entire Snelling Station Area
4. Increase public and green space
A. The approved site plan should include a plaza or central gathering space open to the public
B. The approved site plan should dramatically increase smaller green spaces throughout the entire superblock
C. UPDC invites both Minnesota United and RK Midway to explore how “Snelling Commons” could expand public green space, improve pedestrian safety and provide an additional neighborhood amenity
5. Protect taxpayers
A. The city should be preparing to measure the overall economic impact on the redevelopment of the superblock
B. UPDC seeks a written plan regarding the potential for the departure of Minnesota United
Task Force Timeline
June 3, 2015: UPDC passed a resolution endorsing a strategic, comprehensive plan between the City of Saint Paul, Met Council and RK Midway for the future development on the Snelling Midway super block.
July 24, 2015: UPDC passed a resolution supporting further exploration of the Bus Barn site as a possible location for a Major League Soccer stadium, if the project allows for and encourages transit-oriented, mixed-use development of the entire 34.5 acre Snelling-Midway SmartSite, consistent with the Snelling Station Area Plan. A letter reflecting this resolution and related community concerns was sent to Mayor Chris Coleman, Council President Russ Stark, and Councilmember Dai Thao.
August 11, 2015: UPDC hosted a Community Conversation to discuss the redevelopment of the Bus Barn/Midway Shopping Center site, particularly in light of accelerating negotiations regarding the potential for a new Major League Soccer stadium there. This Executive Summary identifies the major themes and issues that were discussed at that meeting.
This meeting received a lot of press coverage; there is an informative audio clip prepared by Minnesota Public Radio here.
December 3, 2015: The Union Park Executive Director and a Land Use Committee member presented preliminary findings on the Task Force's engagement work to the city's Community Advisory Committee, which was established to offer community input on the redevelopment of the Midway area site. This presentation, which you can review here, sets forth the major themes identified in talking with community members.
December 14, 2015: The Task Force presented its recommendations, based on the significant outreach it has completed, to the Union Park Land Use Committee at its meeting on Monday, December 14. The Committee discussed and endorsed the recommendations.
January 6, 2016: The full Union Park board reviewed, discussed and endorsed the recommendations on Wednesday, January 6. The final report was sent to the City, Met Council, RK Midway, Minnesota United, and others.
May 4, 2016: The Union Park board passed a resolution encouraging the City to continue the work of the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) convened to provide community input into the Stadium plan and Midway Center redevelopment plan. The City declined to continue the CAC, but agreed to support Union Park in further engagement.
June 2016: The full Union Park board committed to supporting a reinstituted task force to address the issues with potential community impact still outstanding.
February 2017: The Union Park Committee on Land Use and Economic Development met with members of the Hamline-Midway Coalition to discuss a joint working group to address stadium and Midway redevelopment issues. This group will use our task force framework to work on these issues.
Ongoing: Union Park staff and volunteers have continued to conduct outreach on the Midway Center plans, by flyering affected neighborhoods, talking with residents, and working to address local concerns. Union Park staff have also continued to reach out to city, Metro Transit, and other agency representatives to insure that community concerns are considered throughout this project.
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