A Major League Soccer franchise, Minnesota United FC, has come to the Twin Cities, and the owners have built a soccer-specific stadium at Snelling and University, on the former "bus barn site" owned by Metro Transit and extending onto some Midway Center private property. Union Park and the City have separately hosted numerous open houses to present the Midway Center Master Plan, Stadium Site Plan, and the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (environmental review) to the public, and to get public input on the project, and the plans have gone through a formal review process at the City. You can review the official information on the project and view the presentations that have been given at those meetings on the Snelling-Midway Redevelopment Site.
Greg Huber of Mortenson Construction is the community's primary contact for construction-related issues. If you have any concerns about noise, safety, or other issues around the site, contact Mortenson construction by phone at 763-522-2100, or stop in to speak at the construction site office on Snelling and Shields in the old Furniture Barn building, which will be open from 6am to 5pm most workdays. Most construction will occur between 7am and 6pm, and work with the greatest noise impact -- pile driving -- has been completed.
Midway Center Redevelopment Task Force
Union Park District Council formed a joint Task Force with volunteer residents from Union Park, Hamline-Midway, and Frogtown to address community issues related to the stadium project and surrounding redevelopment. This group was primarily focused on two issues:
The first was acquiring an understanding of transportation-related plans and concerns related to the site and game day management. The group met with city staff and representatives of Metro Transit to learn about initial planning in this realm. Discussions around pedestrian access in the area led to a resolution passed by the Union Park District Council board urging the city and MnDOT to maintain a pedestrian crossing at Spruce Tree Drive (near the Bus Rapid Transit stations), which those agencies had intended to block with a tall fence.
The second was advocating for community benefits -- those outlined in official agreements between the team and city, those set forth in a resolution passed by City Council, and others that the group identifies as important. Over the course of 2018 to 2019 Hamline Midway Coalition, Union Park District Council and the Ward 1 and 4 Saint Paul City Council offices have been developing a community benefits fund called the Neighbors United Funding Collaborative (NUFC).
Earlier Task Force Actions and Recommendations
Union Park established an earlier Task Force in April 2015 specifically to prepare a report with community vision, goals, and strategies for redevelopment of the Midway Center. It reviewed existing plans and proposals, including the Snelling Station Area Plan (2008) and the Snelling-Midway SmartSite TOD Redevelopment Strategy (2014). It engaged the various stakeholders, including residents, business owners, and organizations, in a visioning process using surveys, community meetings, and one-on-one conversations to gather data and preferences. This outreach included participation at local events (like the Central Baptist Church block party), tabling at local businesses (like Big Top Liquor) and reaching out to local community groups and leaders.
The group's full report was shared with city decision-makers and other stakeholders. In summary, the report reflects the belief that redevelopment of the Midway Center can dramatically benefit our neighborhood with new services, jobs, economic development, and beautiful places. To do so, however, planning for the entire superblock must address five key priorities:
1. Enhance the quality of life in the Midway
A. RK Midway should develop community outreach tools to create new lines of communication and partnership with the neighborhood
B. Minnesota United and neighbors should begin conversations now about the impact of the new stadium on neighborhood life
C. Future development should enhance the visual appeal and beauty of the Midway
D. After the site plan is approved, UPDC seeks to work with the appropriate development partners in the creation of a Construction Mitigation Plan
2. Support and utlitize local businesses and workers
A. The City of Saint Paul should develop effective measures to better understand and track the impact of redevelopment on local businesses
B. The City of Saint Paul should work with RK Midway to reach out to culturally diverse entrepreneurs and existing small businesses prior to final site plan approval
C. The City of Saint Paul should explore what public financing tools may be available to support local businesses during the redevelopment transition
D. Developers and construction firms should set specific targeted goals for the employment of local workforce and utilization of local businesses
3. Improve transportation and safety
A. Throughout the planning process, concerns about traffic, safety, and parking must be addressed clearly and specifically
B. The approved site plan should include a safety plan
C. Planning for the stadium and Midway Center should serve as a catalyst for a comprehensive review of transportation and safety issues for the entire Snelling Station Area
4. Increase public and green space
A. The approved site plan should include a plaza or central gathering space open to the public
B. The approved site plan should dramatically increase smaller green spaces throughout the entire superblock
C. UPDC invites both Minnesota United and RK Midway to explore how “Snelling Commons” could expand public green space, improve pedestrian safety and provide an additional neighborhood amenity
5. Protect taxpayers
A. The city should be preparing to measure the overall economic impact on the redevelopment of the superblock
B. UPDC seeks a written plan regarding the potential for the departure of Minnesota United
Timeline of Union Park Actions
June 3, 2015: UPDC passed a resolution endorsing a strategic, comprehensive plan between the City of Saint Paul, Met Council and RK Midway for the future development on the Snelling Midway super block.
July 24, 2015: UPDC passed a resolution supporting further exploration of the Bus Barn site as a possible location for a Major League Soccer stadium, if the project allows for and encourages transit-oriented, mixed-use development of the entire 34.5 acre Snelling-Midway SmartSite, consistent with the Snelling Station Area Plan. A letter reflecting this resolution and related community concerns was sent to Mayor Chris Coleman, Council President Russ Stark, and Councilmember Dai Thao.
August 11, 2015: UPDC hosted a Community Conversation to discuss the redevelopment of the Bus Barn/Midway Shopping Center site, particularly in light of accelerating negotiations regarding the potential for a new Major League Soccer stadium there. This Executive Summary identifies the major themes and issues that were discussed at that meeting. This meeting received a lot of press coverage; there is an informative audio clip prepared by Minnesota Public Radio here.
December 3, 2015: The Union Park Executive Director and a Land Use Committee member presented preliminary findings on the Task Force's engagement work to the city's Community Advisory Committee, which was established to offer community input on the redevelopment of the Midway area site. This presentation, which you can review here, sets forth the major themes identified in talking with community members.
December 14, 2015: The Task Force presented its recommendations, based on the significant outreach it has completed, to the Union Park Land Use Committee at its meeting on Monday, December 14. The Committee discussed and endorsed the recommendations.
January 6, 2016: The full Union Park board reviewed, discussed and endorsed the recommendations on Wednesday, January 6. The final report was sent to the City, Met Council, RK Midway, Minnesota United, and others.
May 4, 2016: The Union Park board passed a resolution encouraging the City to continue the work of the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) convened to provide community input into the Stadium plan and Midway Center redevelopment plan. The City declined to continue the CAC, but agreed to support Union Park in further engagement.
June 2016: The full Union Park board committed to supporting a reinstituted task force to address the issues with potential community impact still outstanding.
February 2017: The Union Park Committee on Land Use and Economic Development met with members of the Hamline-Midway Coalition to establish a joint task force to address stadium and Midway redevelopment issues.
July 2017: Union Park hosted a community meeting to educate residents on stadium and associated redevelopment plans. Representatives from the Port Authority, Mortenson Construction, MN United, and the City of St. Paul updated the crowd on issues around the construction timelines, neighborhood impacts, and near-term plans for the site. A summary of some of the issues discussed can be found in this Pioneer Press article.
December 2017: The Task Force received a report on Perspectives on the MLS Stadium Development: Baseline Study of Snelling Avenue Station Area which was completed by students from Macalester College.
February 2018: Union Park made recommendations on the signage variances and noise ordinance exemption requested by stadium owners. You can find details of those actions on our Land Use Committee page.
December 2018: Held community engagement session with 100 community members in attendance at Midpointe Event Center. This was supplmeneted with and additional 800 comments regarding the proposed Community Benefits Agreement (Neighbors United Funding Collaborative.
November 2019: Launched the Neighbors United Funding Collaborative, you can read more about it here.
How often do they play games and when do they play?
The MLS regular season runs from March to October, with each team playing 34 games -- about 17 of these would be home games played at the stadium. The post-season includes twelve teams competing in the MLS Cup Playoffs through November and December. In all, the team expects that there will be 18-30 events at the stadium each year.
How much is this going to cost the taxpayers?
The team committed to privately financing the entire cost of building the estimated $200 million stadium, including any overages on the project cost. At a press conference, former Mayor Coleman said that only a few stadiums around the country have been entirely built with private funds, and no other stadiums in the Twin Cities have been built without any taxpayer money. However, the team has tax-exempt status on the parcel once a stadium is built there. (The property was previously not taxed as it was owned by the Metropolitan Council). About $18 million in public funds are being used for infrastructure around the stadium itself, and it is projected that additional public money will be spent in the surrounding area to support redevelopment of the entire Midway Center super block.
What is TIF financing?
In short, tax increment financing (TIF) uses the increased property taxes that a new real estate development generates to finance costs of the development. The Minnesota legislature House Reserach Department has put together some basic primers on TIF financing, and how it works in Minnesota. They can be reviewed here and here. It is anticipated that TIF funding will be used to support additional development on the site.
Who owns the stadium?
Although the team is paying for the stadium, it is publicly owned. Specifically, the team handed over ownership of the stadium to a public stadium authority after it was completed. That public authority leases the land from Met Council (which owns the land) and the team would reimburse the stadium authority for the lease payments.
What’s going to happen to the Midway Shopping Center?
The Midway Shopping Center owner, RK Midway, has submitted a Master Plan for the entire 34.4-acre superblock bounded by University, Snelling, I-94 and Pascal. The image to the left is from the plan. The master plan is a vision of the type and amount of development the site could accommodate at full build-out. It specifies where new public open spaces and streets will go, and how the streets will be designed to serve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic. The plan includes many new buildings intended to hold retail on the street level and other uses (housing, hotel, movie theater, etc.) above.
The exact density and type of the private development actually built on the site will be determined by what market forces make feasible. Early articles addressed redevelopment potential (for example: Confirmed soccer stadium drawing developers to Midway area; and this January 2016 Pioneer Press interview with the out-going executive director of the Port Authority) and the American Bank building at the corner of Snelling and University has been demolished in anticipation of future development.
The Rainbow and Walgreens buildings have been removed, but many other existing buildlings will remain in place when the stadium opens in 2018. An RK Midway representative has told a group of tenants that it intends to honor every lease, and hopes to be able to relocate the existing businesses to new buildings as they are added over time. Big Top will close in spring or summer of 2018 and hopes to relocate on or near the site.
Much of these plans are consistent with earlier City planning documents. As part of planning for the Green Line, there is a “Station Area Plan” for each of the Green line stations. These documents, developed in 2008 with community input, serve as the city’s guide to planning along the corridor. Key recommendations from the Snelling Station Area Plan include: 1) More intense development and a mix of uses, 2) New streets to break up the “super block,” 3) Open spaces to provide focus for redevelopment and improve pedestrian experience, and 4) Shared/structured parking to meet demand and reduce the need for surface lots.
The Union Park District Council has supported the recommendations of the station area plan, and will continue to advocate for new development in the area to achieve these goals.
What about environmental and noise impacts?
The City contracted with a consultant to conduct an Alternative Urban Areawide Review or AUAR (environmental review) to inform the development. The City has made many documents available for review on the Environmental Review webpage for this project.
The AUAR found that noise within the stadium is not not expected to exceed St Paul daytime noise level standards; however, it would exceed standards for residential uses at the closest residential areas to the north and east of the stadium. This picture provides a visual of what the noise level is expected to be surrounding the stadium.
In order to keep noise level below the city limits, the AUAR is requiring several mitigation strategies including the following: First, the overall system loudness of the stadium speakers will be electronically limited so that the noise level at the closest residences is below 65 dBA. Second, sporting events will be scheduled so that regulation play will be completed by 10pm. And finally, future development on the stadium site will be designed with the understanding of the activites and noise levels already occurring at the stadium.
Nonetheless, the City Council approved a blanket noise variance exemption for the stadium in February 2018, despite Union Park's recommendation to limit the noise level allowed to 65 dba and grant any exemption for only a trial basis.
Has the Union Park District Council taken an official position on the stadium?
In July 2015, the Union Park District Council passed a resolution supporting further exploration of the Bus Barn site as a possible location for a Major League Soccer stadium -- if the project allows for and encourages transit-oriented, mixed-use development of the entire 34.5 acre Snelling-Midway Smart Site, consistent with the Snelling Station Area Plan.
In a resolution letter sent to Mayor Coleman and our Council Members, Union Park requested:
- Meaningful community engagement around the stadium and development.
- A comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of the whole 34.5 acre Midway Center/Bus Barn site.
- Attention to specific community concerns including traffic, parking, and potential property tax burdens.
- A focus on the stadium as a community amenity, with free or low-cost tickets and community-based uses such as cultural programs and events. This recent article has some information about the immigrant community perspective.
The Union Park District Council has also engaged community on the development. Union Park's Midway Center task force conducted outreach into the Snelling-Midway area to identify the primary desires and concerns of residents in the area. The task force presented a report and recommendations in December 2015, which were endorsed by the Union Park board in January 2016. Our report is referenced in a MinnPost article on transportation challenges in the Snelling/University area, and has been shared with the City and other entities.