Ramsey County residents give input on TCAAP redevelopment

Community members at a Sept. 17 open house shared ideas on the types of development they would like to see on the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP).

In April, Ramsey County purchased the 427-acre parcel of land from the federal government for $28.5 million, and the land will be sold for private development. The Sept. 17 meeting was also an opportunity for curious citizens to ask questions about the project and get up to speed on its status.

Through discussions and planning activities, Ramsey County residents revealed diverse opinions on what should be built at the state’s largest Superfund site -- from a destination sports park to outdoor shopping plazas and a varying mix of residential and commercial development.

The open house on the TCAAP master plan was part of a Public Involvement Plan approved by the city of Arden Hills, Ramsey County and the TCAAP Joint Development Authority, which together will approve a master plan for development of the site by June, 2014.

The consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. was hired this spring to assist Arden Hills in the planning process. Arden Hills Mayor Dave Grant said diverse public input is appreciated and will help shape the final master plan.

The event, held in the Marsden Room of the Ramsey County Public Works Facility in Arden Hills, was well attended. Ramsey County residents, council members from Arden Hills and neighboring cities, Ramsey County Board members and state legislators were present, and many participated in TCAAP master planning activities that evening. Tables were equipped with maps of the site where small groups gathered to lay out different land-use scenarios. Individuals took turns placing pieces of different colored construction paper to represent their desired mix of retail, office, residential and open space on the TCAAP maps provided.  

Those who participated in the hands-on exercise had varying ideas of what the desirable mix of housing, commercial and open space should be.

Arden Hills resident Steven Jones said he is disappointed that the new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings won’t be located on the TCAAP site, but suggested a mix of office and retail with limited residential.

“I’d like to see a combination of office and retail with pockets of park space and a couple of anchor stores on the north and south ends,” he said. “I’m optimistic about office and retail.”

Jones said a park and ride facility should be built nearby that feeds into light rail and bus lines.  He added that he believes a loop road should be built around the parcel, which he said should be bike path accessible.

Bike enthusiast John Thompson of Shoreview said he would like to see a substantial portion of the site, if not all of it, be dedicated to parkland with mountain bike and cross country ski trails.

“There’s just no place to do that around here. You have to travel a half hour by car to places like Battle Creek, Lebanon Hills or Elm Creek,” he said. “I’m just a silent sports nut and I wanted to come down and make my voice heard.”

He added that silent sports -- outdoor activities that rely on a participants self propulsion, such as biking, running, kayaking and cross country skiing -- are growing by leaps and bounds in the Twin Cities area.

“There’s now a Minnesota High School Mountain Bike League, for example,” he said. “We have a lot of areas dedicated to team sports like football, but not much dedicated in the way of silent sports.”

Grant said all park or all commercial development would not be economically feasible and noted the development on the site would likely be mixed.

“We’re looking at a mixed use of residential and commercial,” he said. For residential development, Arden Hills’ Community Development Director Jill Hutmacher said the target market would be people aged 30-40.

The mayor added that the master plan would need to provide some flexibility. It will most likely be 10 to 15 years after cleanup of the site is completed before there is a full build out on the site, Grant said.

Cleanup of the TCAAP site is being completed by Carl Bolander & Sons and is scheduled to be finished sometime in 2015.

With a long planning horizon, Grant added a lot can change, including the economy, which could have an impact on development.

Grant said residents would have another chance to weigh in on the type of development they would like to see at TCCAP at another open house in January. The date for that event will be announced later this fall.

Additionally, he said he encourages citizens to come to the city’s first council meeting each month to discuss development at the site. The council is designating a public comment period on the second Monday of every month specifically for TCAAP development.

Regular city council meetings are on the second and last Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at city hall, 1245 Highway 96 West in Arden Hills.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillinews.com or 651-748-7824.

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