By Jane McClure

The demolition of two Midway Shopping Center strip malls and the stand-alone Big Top Liquors building is expected to take place later this summer. But before that can happen, steps must be taken to preserve the use of tax increment financing (TIF) for redeveloping the property.

The Saint Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, took two actions in June to move that process along. The HRA approved a demolition and development agreement with Snelling-Midway Redevelopment LLC. The partnership, which includes Midway Center owner Rick Birdoff and Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire, is involved in redeveloping the entire superblock bounded by Pascal Street and Snelling, University and Saint Anthony avenues. 

The HRA also determined that the Midway Center and Big Top Liquors buildings are substandard following the fire, smoke and water damage that was sustained on May 28 and 29 when rioting broke out across the Midway area following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

“The Big Top Liquor building is really severely damaged,” Guild said. So too is Midway Center. The worst damage was sustained by the Foot Locker store, but fire, smoke and water damage spread to the adjacent stores, she said.

Kristin Guild, interim director of the Saint Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development, emphasized that the HRA’s actions simply preserved TIF as an option. It did not award TIF to the redevelopment project. If the developers choose to use TIF, Guild said, a separate application must be brought before the HRA and City Council.

“The Big Top Liquor building is really severely damaged,” Guild said. So too is Midway Center. The worst damage was sustained by the Foot Locker store, but fire, smoke and water damage spread to the adjacent stores, she said.

 

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In September 2017, the HRA found that parcels in the Midway Shopping Center qualified as a “renewal and renovation TIF district.” That finding allowed for demolition to make way for the soccer stadium and its adjacent parking lots and green space. The demolition of Big Top Liquors’ original building on Snelling and Shields Avenue, the former American Bank building at Snelling and University, and the old Cub Foods and Midway Pro Bowl followed soon after.

The redevelopment of the superblock around Allianz Field is governed by a master plan approved by the City Council in 2016. The plan calls for a mix of retail, office, hotel and multifamily residential uses. Before the damage of late May, city officials were awaiting a request from Snelling-Midway Redevelopment LLC for amendments to the master plan, Guild said.

McGuire unveiled plans for two mixed-use buildings west of the soccer stadium earlier this year. Those plans call for 234 market-rate apartments and 15,500 square feet of commercial space over structured parking.

McGuire is working with the Saint Paul Port Authority to obtain funding for environmental cleanup on part of the site.  The Metropolitan Council in June awarded the United Village Midway Block B a $125,000 grant for cleanup of a 2.4-acre site that is currently a surface parking lot. A grant from Ramsey County is still pending.

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