Economic Development Authority Annual Report

VDecember 10, 2020

To: Mayor Furlong and Council Members

From: Economic Development Authority (EDA)

RE: North St. Paul EDA – 2020 Annual Report

Background

In September 2008 the City was faced with several unused or under-utilized land parcels with no intentional effort at the time to understand their true market potential and value, or how to actively achieve the goals established in the approved Comprehensive Plan. This is not to say there were no efforts underway, but they were unfocused and mostly conducted ad hoc by City staff as interest was expressed and time permitted. As a result, Mayor Mike Kuehn established an 11-member Community Development Task Force (CDTF) with the goal of examining ways to enhance economic development opportunities within the City. After 16 months, the CDTF recommended the City establish an Economic Development Authority (EDA) to be responsible for this ongoing effort. The CDTF understood that in order to be effective in economic development within the City, it would require an ongoing and focused effort by a dedicated group. Based on that recommendation, Mayor Kuehn, and the City Council, established the EDA in January 2010. The primary goal of establishing and maintaining the EDA is to have an entity dedicated to work in concert with the City Council to achieve a shared vision of building a strong and adaptive local economy. This is primarily accomplished through a strong focus in the following areas:

  1. Setting a strategic vision for the economic development as framed in the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
  2. Defining and guiding a tactical economic development agenda.
  3. Attracting, retaining and expanding businesses within the City.
  4. Promoting the City to internal and external audiences.

The current EDA consists of a 9-members including:

Robert Dew – Chairman
Richard McNamara – Vice-Chairman
Don Jensen – Treasurer
Tom Schifsky
Kevin Fuller
Archie Vickerman
Terry Furlong – Mayor/Council Representative
Scott Thorsen – Council Representative
Scott Duddeck – City Manager/Executive Director (non-voting)

Additionally, the EDA includes City staff as the EDA Secretary, and Brett Garry, North St. Paul Business Association Liaison both as non-voting members.

The EDA currently meets monthly for 60 minutes, with quarterly meetings scheduled for 90 minutes to conduct business and receive updates on current activities. In addition, EDA members attend many meetings with local businesses and potential developers to assist staff in the multitude of efforts related to EDA activities.

EDA Activities

The EDA undertakes numerous actions and activities in accordance with the EDA’s By-Laws in an effort to advance the economic health of the City. The activities and actions we undertake are done with the singular purpose of positioning the City to achieve its goals as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan and support business retention and growth within the City. The EDA recognizes there are oftentimes many competing interests when it comes to the issues surrounding potential development and the activities that promote a healthy and sustainable economy. The EDA always makes a concerted effort to view these things through a lens of “What is best for the economic health of the City?”. This is not to suggest we don’t consider the viewpoints and concerns of other City Commissions or stakeholders, but it is critical the EDA makes its best recommendations and works to put the pieces together, if possible. This is important to understand when assessing the process and ultimate value of the EDA.

The EDA has continually attempted to balance the demands between “what the residents of North St. Paul want it to be” and “what the market wants it be”. Ultimately, the EDA has to provide recommendations and guidance on what is best for the long-term economic health of the City. The way we do this often takes a lot of time and effort to reach a conclusion that provides the City and its residents the best long-term results. Over the last decade the EDA has commissioned numerous studies and exhaustive reviews to ensure we, as a City, are on the best path for the future. This is important to note when we review the past and recent successes as they have all taken years of effort to achieve. It is important to remember this as we look to the future and the work that remains to be done.

The EDA has been instrumental in commissioning studies and developing plans that have helped guide the redevelopment process in North St. Paul. In 2011 the EDA and staff submitted for and received a $400,000 grant from the Metropolitan Council to conduct a study of the North Brook Redevelopment Site (old Anchor Block Site) which ultimately produced the North Brook Redevelopment Plan. This plan, along with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Livable Streets Plan, and numerous other plans and studies formulated the basis for the Redevelopment Master Plan that was completed in December 2012. The Redevelopment Master Plan has proven to be one of the most instrumental documents for development in the City and has served as a guidebook to the EDA, other City Commissions and staff for many years and should continue to do so for many years to come.

Below are some excerpts from the Redevelopment Master Plan that is important to revisit:

Patience & Commitment to Vision. Commitment to the plan and patience go hand-in-hand. This plan does more than simply seek to attract new development to shovel ready sites in North Saint Paul; it provides a road map to move the area toward its vision. Commitment to the plan means the willingness to actively promote public and private investments that align with the objectives of the master plan. It also requires the willingness by decision makers to deter developments which do not meet the objectives of the plan. Not all of these decisions will be easy or will they occur exactly as analyzed in this master plan.

“While the master plan prescribes a detailed redevelopment approach for specific projects and likely steps, the plan is also flexible in its application to allow the City of North Saint Paul to adapt to an everchanging marketplace. The master plan should be utilized as a living document, continually referenced and checked against as development and redevelopment projects occur over time.”

The EDA will revisit this plan to weigh it against what has been accomplished as outlined, where we have deviated and why, and where we need to remain focused for current and future phases of executing the plan elements, or make updates if appropriate. We strongly encourage all elected officials and members of other City Commissions to do the same and share their thoughts with the EDA to help keep our community on a path to long-term success and to ensure we have a shared vision of future development efforts.

In addition to the strong focus on development and business attraction to the City, the EDA has also spent a significant amount of time on business retention. Business retention efforts have centered around several key areas; 

  1. Relocating existing businesses displaced by redevelopment in new locations within the City; 
  2. Promoting business assistance programs and facilitating grant access;
  3.  Information gathering from existing businesses on the needs and concerns that the EDA or other City Commissions can assist with, or influence to the benefit of the community.

These efforts have helped numerous businesses within our City to not only survive but thrive despite the recent economic struggles. Unfortunately, some businesses have become victim to the downturn or the changing dynamics of both our community and the broader economy. When this has happened, we attempt to understand why, and look for ways to prevent these losses in the future. In some cases, these events also create opportunity to improve the City in ways not previously considered in prior plans, and as a result we adjust and work towards a better outcome. The EDA has added a liaison from the North St. Paul Business Association, Brett Garry, who has played a vital role in helping the EDA understand the current business climate from a different perspective.

Recent and Near-Term Development


Polar Ridge Senior Living – Polar Ridge is a senior living facility that was completed in 2015. The facility has 39units of senior independent living, 54 units of senior assisted living and 21 units of memory care. The facility has brought ~15 new jobs to the City and added ~$16,000,000 in taxable real estate value.

Suite Living – In 2018 Suite Living began construction of a senior living facility. The facility opened in the summer of 2020. The facility has 18 units of senior assisted living and 14 units of memory care. The facility is located on the site formally occupied by the ISD 622 bus garage. In 2014 the EDA submitted a grant application to Ramsey County for the environmental remediation and ultimate redevelopment of this site. The City received $700,000 in grants to assist in preparing this site. The new facility brings ~9 new jobs to the City and will add ~$4,500,000 in taxable real estate value upon stabilization.

Anchor Commons – This site was formerly occupied by Anchor Block and had sat vacant for many years while for sale by a private owner. Site conditions proved to be a continual hurdle in the sale and in 2017 the EDA and City staff stepped in to assist the seller and prospective buyer in developing a plan that helped create an environment to facilitate a sale, and allow the City to affirmatively guide a process to the benefit of all. Without the City’s involvement the property sale would have likely failed, and the site would remain vacant today. Currently this site is a beehive of construction activity and will soon have the following completed developments:

Gateway at McKnight – M&I Homes’ development will provide 100 new townhomes ranging from 1,750 – 2,399 square feet. When this report was prepared 37 homes have closed and 5 are pending closure. Construction of all townhomes is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2021. This development will add $30,000,00 of new taxable real estate value, and bring ~275 new residents to the City.

Extra Space Storage Facility – A new self-storage facility is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2021. Once stabilized, this development will add ~$6,000,000 in taxable real estate value to the City.

Kwik Trip – Construction of a new gas station and convenience store will begin in early 2021 and open in the summer of 2021. Once stabilized, this development will add ~$5,200,000 in taxable real estate value to the City and 25-30 new jobs.

Trident Development – A new 128-unit apartment building will begin construction in early 2021.Anchor View Apartments will offer 20% of the units in the development with affordable, income-based rent. This development will add $22,320,000 of new taxable real estate value and bring ~150 residents to the City in the next two years.

The Sentinel Building – Amcon Construction is underway with a 3-story 89-unit market rate apartment building on the former City Hall site and adjacent parcels. The mixed-use facility also has 3,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space located on the street level at the corner of 7th and Margret. This development will add $18,250,000 of new taxable real estate value and bring another 100 residents to the City later this year.

These developments, most of which are taking place on what was previously vacant land, are making a huge dent in what was identified in the 2011 Downtown Housing Study as available capacity within the City’s downtown area.

These developments, in total, have added ~$102,250,000 in taxable real estate value within the City that did not exist prior to the formation of the EDA. We recognize the contributions of City staff, the Planning Commission, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and, of course, the Mayor and City Council for the achievements in the last decade. The EDA has not achieved these results independently, but has served as driving force to put many of these pieces in place.

Future Development

There are several other key parcels that can bring additional value to the City. There is discussion of development of the Margaret Street site, across from City Hall, the former BP station on Division and Highway 36 was recently acquired and demolished, as well as numerous others. We continue to monitor the significant site on 12th and Delaware that has seen proposals for new development in the last couple years. The disposition of the North St. Paul Community Center is also an item we continue to monitor as it may have a major impact on numerous aspects of economic activity. And finally, the continued improvement of the downtown business district remains a focus. With work well underway on the Downtown Revitalization Plan we will keep the project goals at the forefront and work to leverage the significant investment being made to create a sense of place and community pride in our downtown.

Highway 36 & 120 Interchange

The EDA has and will continue to monitor MNDOT plans related to modifications at Division and Highway 36 since changes at this intersection may significantly impact both development in the immediate area and access to Commerce Park and Downtown Areas from Highway 36. Currently, the MNDOT 10-year Highway Capital Work Plan does not include any work related to this interchange other than a road reconstruction project of Highway 120 (Division) in 2024. It is imperative we remain engaged in the plans for this interchange and take a strong position as an impacted stakeholder to any work planned for this area.

EDA Financial Information

The EDA is primarily funded by an annual levy approved by the City Council. The EDA expenditures have largely been allocated to staff support and outside agencies to prepare studies and other materials to assist in EDA activities. One of the goals of the EDA is to continue to build a fund balance that allows the EDA to implement strategic development and assist in removing hurdles in areas that private investment have shied away from. Below is a summary of the EDA budget and expenditures since 2018. More detailed information can be provided if desired.

Summary

The EDA looks forward to continuing its mission of building a strong, adaptive local economy in the City of North St. Paul for years to come. We are thankful for the support and collaboration of the Mayor, City Council, Planning Commission, the North St. Paul Business Association and other agencies and private parties we have worked with. Mostly, we are grateful for the support and opportunity to serve the residents and the businesses of North St. Paul.

On behalf of the North St. Paul Economic Development Authority,

Robert Drew, Chairman
Scott Duddeck, Executive Director