Sears St. Paul Redevelopment Planned

Developers have unveiled a plan to redevelop the area surrounding the St. Paul Sears store near the State Capitol, preserving the store and its operations while adding housing and retail space.

The Rice Street location includes large parking lots, and these would be transformed into higher-density uses including more retail, townhomes and office space, according to the plan.

Sears confirmed that they are in “the early stages of discussion regarding a project on the Rice Street property that will continue to have a Sears store presence,” said Howard Riefs, spokesman for Sears Holding Corp. “We will have additional information to share in the coming weeks.”

The redevelopment plan would include plans for:

— Another 111,700 square feet of retail space, including two retail buildings on the southeast side of the existing store and two more to the southwest.

— A four-story office building on the northeast corner of the site.

— 121 apartments and 18 townhomes in the northwest corner of the property. Some of that land is now occupied by the Sears Auto Center, which would be relocated to the Sears store itself.

The site also provides parking for many state workers, so the plan includes a proposed four-level, 586-space parking garage. Another 700 parking spaces would remain after the remodeling.

The site also is near the new light-rail line going in along University Avenue.

City Planning and Economic Development Director Cecile Bedor put the project into perspective on Friday, Jan. 4, noting that the most concrete thing for now is that the Sears store is staying.

“We don’t have anything that has been formally submitted,” Bedor said. “Sears has identified about 10 sites across the country that they believe are ripe for redevelopment, and this is one of them. And when I say redevelopment, they mean keeping the store. This is a good site for them.”

On Thursday, Macy’s Inc. announced that it is closing its landmark downtown St. Paul department store, which had been open for 50 years. The Macy’s is expected to close in March, and there are no firm plans for its large building. After that, Sears will be one of the last remaining department stores in St. Paul.

“The light rail is a billion-dollar investment, and the hope for all light rail is it will be a catalyst for new development,” Bedor said. The Macy’s site also is along the light rail line.

As for the14-acre Sears site, “It’s a sea of parking right now. This is in the planning stages. It will continue to change,” Bedor said.

Melissa Martinez-Sones, director of the Capitol River Council, said its 35-member board received general details of the Sears site plan last month but has yet to take a formal position on the plan. The council is an advisory group for the area surrounding the state Capitol.

“Sears came to our December board meeting and presented high-level plans, more conceptual,” she said. “They are coming back with more detailed information on Tuesday, and that’s to our Development Review Committee meeting. Those are open, public meetings, and anybody who might be interested in that is welcome to come and listen to what Sears has planned.”

The committee meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the U.S. Bank Center’s first floor conference room at 5th and Minnesota streets.

The plan also will go before the state’s Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board for design concept approval on Jan. 16. Director Nancy Stark said plans will be presented at that meeting, set for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Capitol building. Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon chairs the board.

“We would have the jurisdiction over zoning, and then the city would have jurisdiction over building permits,” Stark said.

Source: Pioneer Press