Redevelopment of the old Midway Center property took two steps forward on August 25 with the Saint Paul City Council’s approval of an expanded tax increment financing (TIF) district and its order that the shopping center’s fire-damaged east wing be razed and removed within 15 days.

Shops at Midway Center were looted and set on fire in late May 2020 in the unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd. A burned-out building that housed Big Top Liquors was torn down in August.
The new TIF district makes about $209 million available for redevelopment of the so-called superblock around the Major League Soccer stadium at Snelling and Concordia avenues. It replaces an earlier TIF agreement that made $112 million available.
Council members Dai Thao, Chris Tolbert, Rebecca Noecker, Mitra Jalali, Amy Brendmoen and Nelsie Yang voted for the new TIF agreement. Jane Prince voted against it.

The hope for a redeveloped Midway Center

Local residents and business people have clamored for redevelopment of Midway Center since an ambitious master plan was unveiled in 2016. Minnesota United’s Allianz Field opened in 2019.
The TIF agreement indicates that redevelopment is to begin in late 2021 or early 2022 and be completed by the end of 2031 with an expected market value of approximately $514.2 million.
TIF subsidizes development by diverting a portion of the increased property taxes that come from that development. The August 25 TIF agreement does not name a particular developer. However, the city has a demolition and development agreement with shopping center owner RK Midway and Snelling Midway Redevelopment LLC, which is a partnership between the shopping center owner and lead Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire.
The new Snelling-Midway “redevelopment” TIF district replaces the “renewal and removal” TIF district approved by the council in November 2020. The original district was established to preserve the TIF option while a redevelopment district was explored. Melanie McMahon, who leads major development projects for the city, said the TIF change expands the city’s ability to pool money for new affordable housing. The Snelling-Midway TIF district would allow excess funds to be spent on affordable housing citywide.
Council members who supported the new TIF district said it provides options for project financing while awaiting specific plans to come forward. McMahon pointed out that the City Council and Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board would need to take additional action for any TIF funding to be awarded to any developer or project on the site.

Midway Center redevelopment plan questioned

Prince said she does not believe the $94 million TIF expansion was brought forward in a transparent manner. She also noted the potential loss in property taxes to Ramsey County, the city of Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Public Schools. Over its 26 years, the TIF district would deprive the county of $65.9 million, the city of $67.9 million, and the school district of $54.9 million in property tax revenue.
Prince also questioned the redevelopment plan, which calls for 1 million square feet of office space, 421,100 square feet of retail space, 400 hotel rooms, 620 housing units and 4,500 structured parking spaces. She thought it ironic that the plan would include so much off-street parking right after the city abolished its minimum parking requirements. “The only thing I feel good about is that we’re building affordable housing,” she said.
According to Prince, a market study is needed to determine the feasibility of various developments on the Midway site, especially given the economic changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deputy Mayor Jamie Tincher pushed back at Prince’s comments. Noecker said she shares Prince’s concerns, but believes there is still time to study the TIF district and redevelopment plans and review those plans with the community.
Redevelopment TIF districts are more desirable for developers because they can be in place for up to 26 years. The renewal and removal district had a 16-year life span.

— Jane McClure


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