Saint Paul Eyes Private Redevelopment for Police Training Facility

Police Facility Real Estate Saint Paul is looking to sell off a piece of property formerly used as a police training facility because it believes its “higher and better” use can be achieved by the private sector rather than through continued city ownership. The Public Safety Annex is due to be vacated by the end of the year.

What the future will be for the property remains to be seen, but city officials now hope that creative uses for the building will be among the proposals. Saint Paul has said that proposals to demolish the building or to convert it to housing will not be considered. Instead, officials hope that the building will see new life as some sort of career-building or job-training center, and would accept limited retail use, along with a possibility for innovative commercial or creative office redevelopment.

They hope a private-sector developer will see it their way. Previous plans that called for demolition of the historic building, replacing it with a modern structure, garnered little support. Instead, Peter Frosch, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at GREATER MSP, noted, “Repurposing buildings with character and history as new creative office space will help attract people and companies, especially in the growing innovation sector.” The Saint Paul Innovation Cabinet, of which Frosch is a member, points to an immediate need to accelerate job growth in the downtown area. They hope this building will serve as catalyst for that effort. 

The History and the Future

The city’s Public Service Annex, built in 1925 as the police training center, is due to be vacated by the end of 2017. Operations are being moved to a new training facility on Lafayette Road. It is the “character and history” of the 90-year-old building that allows city officials to hope for new ideas. They want to see the existing structure incorporated into a comprehensive development plan that includes green space and parkland as well. 

Early June has been set as the target date for initial evaluation of offers on the property, and if all goes well it is hoped that redevelopment might begin in early 2018. In the event that a proposal is selected, there will still be a public hearing process to solicit community feedback on potential redevelopment, but there is not at this time any definite time frame. And the city is not bound to accept any submission.

Bringing in Jobs

Saint Paul’s 2016-2018 Economic Development Strategy makes it a priority to add 3,000 jobs to the city during the two-year period, an accelerated rate from the 3.6 percent growth experienced in the downtown core from third quarter 2015 through third quarter 2016. 

Mayor Chris Coleman adds, “We have seen significant interest in repurposing older buildings into modern, high-quality office space. We would be remiss to not explore potential commercial redevelopment of this building to support immediate job growth in downtown.” But, in this instance, the city would like to use private funds to provide new jobs and boost the economic health of the city’s urban core. They want to retain the look and the character of the past, gain the support of the business community, engage surrounding neighborhoods with the vision, and add new parkland. 

Will it happen? By June, we should have a better idea.

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