Waterford Bay – Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

St. Paul riverfront site has long vexed developers, but there’s a new plan

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal | Nick Halter | May 17, 2019

A 10-acre piece of land along St. Paul’s Mississippi River riverfront, once the site of Xcel Energy’s Island Station power plant, could be home to as many as 250 apartments.

Several developers have taken a run at the site over the past two decades, most recently in 2014 when local developer Jim LaValle floated an office and residential project that never materialized. In 2004, Rich Pakonen and Dennis Doyle tried to do condos.

Now Stoneleigh Cos. of Barrington, Ill., has plans to use the site for 240 to 250 apartments in a building that steps from three to four stories. Those plans go before the city’s Zoning and Planning Committee on May 23 with a potential May 30 Planning Commission vote.

Ryan Swingruber, vice president of development at Stoneleigh, first visited the site last August, when he rented a Nice Ride bike near his downtown hotel and pedaled down to the river and took the trails southwest to the site, which is near the corner of Shepard Road and Randolph Avenue.

The site’s proximity to those bike trails and the river are influencing the design of Swingruber’s project. He’s working with Xcel Energy, which owns land around the project, to get easements that would bring the trails into the site and lead down to a peninsula, where he’d like to build a small launch for kayaks and canoes.

The project, called Waterford Bay at St. Paul, will have some of the amenities you’d expect, like an outdoor pool atop a parking podium, dog run, fitness center and wi-fi cafe.

But it also has some features geared toward the area, like storage for tenants to keep their kayaks, tents, hiking gear, cross country skis as well as a bike room.

The site is subject to flooding, so Stoneleigh is adding three feet of dirt to raise the building. It’s also going to use most of the first floor for parking — around 250 or 260 spaces — in case the water does creep up like it did this spring.

Swingruber said the apartments mix will skew heavily toward studios and smaller one-bedroom units, with a goal of keeping average rents in the low $1,500s, which would be $125 or $150 a month below the going rate of new Class A buildings in St. Paul.

While 10 acres seems like a lot for just 250 units, Swingruber said only around six ares are buildable due to utilities, easements and a river setback of 100 feet. Stoneleigh could have built 50 feet closer to the river but Swingruber said the city’s 2040 plan will change the setback to 100 feet and he wanted to respect that.

The current owner of the land, St. Paul River Walk LLC, is behind on his taxes by $342,000. Swingruber said Swingruber’s acquisition of the property will include an allocation to pay that debt off, avoiding a forfeiture of the land.

Pending approvals, Swingruber hopes to close on the land in mid July and break ground by Oct. 1. Construction should take 18 to 20 months, which would put an opening in the first quarter of 2021.

This will be Stoneleigh’s first Minnesota project. The company manages 11 apartment communities and has three more under construction, plus five in development. Those apartment projects operate under the company’s property management brand, Waterford Residential.

BKV Group is the architect on the project