Bringing new life to a former Macy’s — complete with rooftop hockey rink

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by Dan Rafter

The former Macy’s building in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been one of the more conspicuous empty spaces in the booming Twin Cities market. Those days, though, are coming to an end.

The former department store will soon become a key mixed-use development for downtown Saint Paul. And Excelsior, Minnesota-based Oppidan Investment Company will play a key role in making this happen as the project’s developer.

Oppidan is teaming with the Saint Paul Port Authority to take on the $60 million 515,000-square-foot building project. Construction on the new mixed-use project — which will be located in a block bounded by Wabasha, Cedar, Sixth and Seventh streets — is expected to begin in the spring of 2016.

Oppidan will own 90 percent of the redeveloped building. Construction crews will not demolish the former department store, but will instead “re-skin” it, transforming it into a building with a modern look.

“This is such a unique project,” said Paul Tucci, vice president of development with Oppidan. “We have been asked what qualifies us over others to do this deal. My honest answer? I don’t know that any of the groups that the Port Authority was talking to has done anything like this, either. It is so unique. The building, the location and the size of it all combine to make this a project like no other in the Twin Cities.”

The groundwork for the mixed-use project took place in January of 2014. That’s when Macy’s Retail Holdings sold the former department store and its adjacent parking lot to the Port Authority for $3 million.

The Port quickly began marketing the property. The site has attracted the interest of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, which plans to build a training facility in the building. This will include an enclosed ice rink on the top level of the building, something that would set the site apart from other downtown Saint Paul buildings.

Tucci said that having the Wild involved will help attract other tenants. It’s not yet been officially announced, but it’s widely assumed that a Walgreens store will occupy about 25,000 square feet in the new development.

The Port Authority is now negotiating with other potential tenants, and the list is a diverse one. Possible tenants here include a craft brew pub, restaurants, healthcare organizations, software companies and financial services firms.

Louie Jambois, president of the Port Authority, said that the authority has one goal for the project: to make the new building a destination point in Saint Paul.

“It will leverage the city of Saint Paul’s investment in the Palace Theater, the Amsterdam and other downtown redevelopment projects, increase the city’s tax base in the long term and be an attractive and vibrant addition to downtown Saint Paul,” Jambois said in a statement.

Tucci said that it should take anywhere from nine to 12 months to complete the construction work on the project. He said that the mixed-use development – if all goes well – could be open by early 2017.

Tucci predicted that the site will attract plenty of attention – and tenants – once the new development starts taking shape.

“Having the hockey rink and the Minnesota Wild interested makes this the right deal and the right partner to attract a lot of interest and energy from other tenants,” Tucci said. “The biggest factor that makes this such a top project is the location. We have light rail on one side and foot traffic all the way around. There are a lot of positives for this site.”

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