Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Finance & Commerce

West St. Paul to consider Oppidan apartments

When your city is only about 5 square miles, you have to make the land you have count.

West St. Paul is eager to get part of the former city-owned Thompson Oaks golf course under development and on the tax rolls. To do that, it has turned to Excelsior-based Oppidan, which has a development agreement for a 5.5-acre site on the west side of the Thompson Oaks property to build a 153-unit market-rate apartment building.

Oppidan’s proposal, which does not yet have a name, goes before the city Planning Commission on Oct. 15. The company was drawn by the current and future amenities planned near the property, Executive Vice President Paul Tucci said in an interview.

“The amenity that is going to happen between the city and county with the River to River trail extension through the golf course site just made it appealing to us,” Tucci said.

Also coming soon nearby: a new grocery store. Farther west on the same block is the former YMCA, which was sold in April to Hy-Vee. The company plans to build a 68,400-square-foot store on the site.

West St. Paul closed down the nine-hole golf course, which lost between $50,000 and $70,000 a year, in 2018, 22 years after it opened. Community and Economic Development Director Jim Hartshorn said the course was a “good amenity” for the community but was out of step with the times.

“It’s hard to find millennials who golf these days,” Hartshorn said. “It was time to repurpose it.”

Part of the former golf course is considered wetlands, but Hartshorn said the city hopes an additional six or seven acres will prove suitable for development. Oppidan has had conversations about developing a second phase there, but has not committed to any follow-up plans, Tucci said.

Oppidan’s project will have units ranging from studio to three-bedroom, primarily one- and two-bedroom units, Tucci said, although the full unit mix is still being finalized. He declined to share a cost estimate, but said Oppidan hopes to break ground in the spring and finish in summer 2021. The project will be designed and built by Minnetonka-based Amcon Construction.

Aside from the 56-unit Rooftop 252 building recently completed on Westview Drive, West St. Paul has been lacking in new multifamily construction for quite some time, Tucci said.

“We think that we have an opportunity as that community changes and grows to provide some newer housing stock for people who want to move in and be part of West St. Paul,” he said.

That’s exactly what the city is looking for as well. The city has several affordable or senior projects in the development pipeline, but new general occupancy housing is key to attracting not just new residents, but new restaurants, retailers and other businesses to the city, Hartshorn said.

“It’s not all about market rate, but a little bit of everything we want to provide,” he said. “We want people to be able to live in West St. Paul of all income levels and age levels. We want them to work here. We want them to play here, and we want them to live here.”

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