St. Paul Port Authority in the process of taking over Hillcrest site


The St. Paul Port Authority is in the process of taking over ownership of the former Hillcrest Golf Course in the northeast corner of St. Paul. Some of the work to prepare the land for future development will include environmental remediation to clean up pollution at the site. (Courtesy of the St. Paul Port Authority)

Changes are happening at the Hillcrest Golf Course as the St. Paul Port Authority works to purchase the site. The development authority closed on the property on June 26 and will work to clean up and prepare the site for redevelopment.

Discussions about the Port Authority possibly buying the land began soon after the site went up for sale, and solidified more this spring. During the Port Authority’s May 28 Credit Committee meeting, the committee approved establishing the creation of the Hillcrest Industrial Development District, allowing the Port Authority to begin making plans on how to redevelop the site. 

Following that meeting on June 18, the Credit Committee voted to approve the Port Authority’s purchase of the 112-acre golf course for $10 million.

The Port Authority will purchase the land with general obligation bonds with the support of the City of St. Paul. The city council will have a third reading and public hearing about the bonds on July 10.

The golf course, located at 2200 Larpenteur Ave. E., has been a fixture of the northeast neighborhoods of St. Paul for almost 100 years it first opened in 1921. The St. Paul Pipefitters Union Local 455 purchased the golf course in 2011 for $4.3 million.

In 2017, golf club members were sent a letter announcing the club would close Oct. 31 of that year. The union stated that it had covered operating losses each year it owned the course, while making upgrades to facilities hoping to attract new members. However, membership continued to decrease and the union wasn’t able to keep up with the losses. 

Now, after nearly a year and a half on the market, the sale is proving to be a challenge, given the remediation and topography work that needs to happen before construction can take place.

“The amount of risk to the private sector associated with acquiring a brownfield site this large, with significant topographic challenges, without infrastructure, an approved master plan, zoning or other entitlements is evidently too significant for buyers to absorb,” read a memo from Monte Hilleman to the St. Paul Port Authority’s board of commissioners. Hilleman is the authority’s vice president of real estate development. 

According to another memo shared with the city council, the Port Authority’s initial investigations at the site have found mercury contamination from fungicides used on the golf course, as well as various petroleum contaminations from general maintenance.

The environmental remediation of the site is estimated to cost about $2.5 million.

It’s not the first time the Port Authority has taken on a large development site on the East Side. Over the last decade, it was also responsible for the clean up and redevelopment of former 3M sites, totaling just over 46 acres, along Phalen Boulevard.

At a June 19 District 2 Community Council meeting, the council’s board began more in-depth conversations about community outreach and local development processes in anticipation of the changes at the golf course. The District 2 Community Council — a citizen group that helps make recommendations to the city about local issues — represents the northeast neighborhoods of the city, including the Hillcrest site.   

The council is currently planning to organize community meetings about the Hillcrest redevelopment. It will also have information and collect ideas from neighbors at upcoming events, like it’s Summerland series occurring all season at the intersection of Bush Avenue and Johnson Parkway. The next few Summerland events will take place on July 16 and Aug. 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Neighbors can also discuss the redevelopment with the council at National Night Out on Aug. 6, 6 p.m. at Hayden Heights Recreation Center, 1965 Hoyt Ave. E. The District 2 Community Council can be reached at 651-774-2220.

 

–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.  

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