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Sunday, January 20, 2008

St. Paul / 1 project sinks as another swims

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2 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

Locations on river explain the fates of Bridges, West site
BY DAVE ORRICK
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 01/19/2008 11:06:47 PM CST


Developer Jerry Trooien - whose bold 2 million-square-foot mixed-use proposal, the Bridges of St. Paul, was nixed last year by St. Paul - is still licking his wounds.

Meanwhile, Timothy Murnane - the public face of Opus Northwest's plan to transform the former county jail and Ramsey County-owned West Publishing building into a similarly bold project - is getting congratulatory slaps on the back in City Hall. The Ramsey County Board last week approved a deal that would sell the land to Opus for $10 million.

What gives?

Answer: It's all about the river. St. Paul's vision for big developments - high-density, high-rise, high-impact - calls for them to be only on the downtown side of the Mississippi River. Opus' property is; Trooien's isn't. Neither the projects nor the developers have been actually pitted against each other. Location is the difference.

The Pioneer Press had more questions and asked each man, separately, to reflect. Here are their answers, edited for space and clarity:

Jerry Trooien / Q. You've said the market can't support anything less than what you proposed. What's up with the Bridges site these days?

A.

What's there to do? We still come to work everyday. I still own the land. The ball is in the city's court - and the entire community's court - if anyone wants a plan that has any chance of working. Unless the city's going to give a zillion-dollar subsidy, there isn't a plan that will work (and have the city's support).
Q.

The Bridges was at odds with the larger plan of the city and the St. Paul Riverfront Corp. According to your logic, that very plan is flawed?

A.

Yes. There's never been a history of objecting to the heights of buildings. There isn't any disturbing of the majesty of the Mississippi or anything like that. And the other objection - that you'll hear the sucking sound from the life of St. Paul if you build across the river - it really is irrational fear-mongering.

Q.

But you do understand why they like Opus' proposal, right?

A.

I'm not against development of the West Building. I wish them well. But it's OK over there, but it's dirty and rotten over here? There's some real inconsistencies.

Timothy Murnane / Q.

You knew from the get-go that Opus' plan wouldn't face the same opposition as the Bridges, right?

A.

The comprehensive plan and the vision that the city and Riverfront Corp. have are consistent with our plans. That makes a difference.

Q.

Even with public support, you still have the economy to deal with. It's slumping.

A.

Our business is all about timing, and I wish the market were in better condition than it is now, but unless you try to put a good project out there, it'll never happen. 2009 is earliest we could start construction, and that's a tall order in this economy.

Q.

Think it'll turn around by then?

A.

It's hard to gauge that. Some people think we're in a recession. We'll know a lot more in six months.

Q.

You've said your first order of business is a corporate tenant, but condos are eventually part of the plan. The residential real estate market is in the tank.

A.

We're also well aware of the challenging real estate market, but we also think this is the best real estate site in St. Paul, and we're going to commit to doing everything possible. We're going to give it everything we've got for St. Paul.

Dave Orrick can be reached at dorrick@pioneerpress.com or 651-292-1159.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a dream, Dream on.
Watch the city council.

8:16 AM  

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