Monte Hilleman likes challenges. That’s why he’s been the perfect person to spearhead the massive redevelopment of the former 3M manufacturing site in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.
Hilleman, vice president of redevelopment at the St. Paul Port Authority, has been the public voice of the authority’s efforts to market 61 acres of land and turn the former manufacturing facility into an office and light industrial park named Beacon Bluff.
And at the heart of the project? New jobs for St. Paul. Hilleman hopes that the redevelopment project will bring 1,000 jobs to this area, one that has been hit hard by the country’s economic slowdown.
“No one planned what would happen after 3M left this site,” Hilleman said. “This is the hole in the doughnut in terms of economic development along the Phalen Corridor. It is the key to reinvigorating the neighborhood around this site. We will be bringing back nearly 1,000 lost jobs. Just as importantly, this project will help our governments rebuild their tax base. These are all things that had to happen after 3M left if we were to keep this neighborhood healthy.”
Of course, just because the project is an important one, doesn’t mean it’s been an easy one for the Port Authority. The authority has had to work with neighborhood residents who didn’t want to see key 3M buildings on the site demolished. It’s also had to deal with a depressed commercial real estate market.
So far, the authority has done an admirable job of working around these issues. The authority has managed to save Building 21, the most important of the buildings on the site, the one that served as the executive office building of 3M. It has also begun selling space on the site. A medical clinic recently purchased four acres, while a local developer has purchased Building 21, though he spent just $1 to get it.
In its next issue, Minnesota Real Estate Journal is covering the Beacon Bluff project, taking a long look at what’s happened there and what’s happening in the future.
For now, though, let’s just say that Hilleman sees great things for this chunk of land.
“This is something the community needed,” Hilleman said. “This area has lost a lot of manufacturing jobs. We had to do something to bring some of them back.”
— Dan Rafter