Ramsey County approves sale of 40 acres of Rice Creek Commons land, a big step in redevelopment plan

After years of work and planning, a redevelopment plan in Arden Hills took a big step forward on Tuesday.

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the sale of 40 acres in the Rice Creek Commons redevelopment area known as “Outlot A” to Ryan Companies for $12,751,319 during Tuesday’s meeting. It’s the first phase in a larger vision for the area.

It comes a week after Arden Hills City Council approved a plan for more than 1,900 housing units in the Rice Creek Commons area that is adjacent to Outlot A. Alatus is leading the development of that land.

Work on the site, formerly the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant and the largest contaminated site in the state, has been ongoing for years to clear it and bring it up to environmental standards. Back in April, city and county officials sought development proposals for the Outlot A land and selected Ryan Companies.

Ryan plans to use the land, which is zoned for commercial use only, for build-to-suit property that can house 400,000 to 600,000 total square feet. The county says the site could eventually be used for things like manufacturing and distribution facilities alongside retail and restaurant space, a corporate campus, life science officers or a research and development center.

Commissioner Nicole Frethem called it exciting “for our entire region” before the board approved the sale on Tuesday.

“I think this is a really strong start to show the community and folks on the whole, what we’re looking to do here in terms of bringing really good jobs to the community but also working with the environment and the existing landscape to make it something that really fits in the community,” Frethem said.

“We understand that we set the right tone and we have to build momentum,” Peter Fitzgerald, the vice president of real estate development for Ryan Companies, told the board, alluding to the larger development plan for the area.

While it’s just the first step in the development plan, county leaders celebrated the progress after years of planning.

“I think any step that is this concrete in moving forward demonstrates change from decades of challenge on this project,” County Manager Ryan O’Connor said.

The agreement includes a due diligence period of up to 15 months. The county plans to ask state lawmakers this spring for $25 million to build stormwater infrastructure and a main road to connect County Road H and Highway 96.

The county estimates the total future development value of Rice Creek Commons at $1 billion.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated part of Outlot A would be used for residential purposes. That is the main Rice Creek Commons area and the story has been updated to accurately reflect the planned use of the land.