Arden Hills site submitted as potential Amazon headquarters


Ramsey County officials have proposed that Amazon use part of the 427-acre Rice Creek Commons development for its second headquarters. Jesse Poole

The Rice Creek Commons development, the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, takes up a large portion of northwestern Arden Hills, north of Highway 96, running along I-35W. courtesy of City of Arden Hills

Ramsey County wants Amazon. It made that clear when it proposed two possible locations for the Seattle-based online retailer’s second headquarters. One of those Ramsey County locations is in Arden Hills. 

Minnesota has been mentioned as a potential home for what Amazon is calling “HQ2,” a giant corporate base situated outside the Pacific Northwest. The company is also looking at locations across the nation. 

Ramsey County submitted its ideas to Greater MSP, an economic development and marketing firm based in St. Paul that is building a packet of prospective HQ2 locations for Amazon’s consideration, submitting it by Oct. 19.  

One of the locations the county wants the online retailer to consider is a recently vacated riverfront property that runs alongside Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul. The other is Arden Hill’s 427-acre property called the Rice Creek Commons, a development at the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

 

Big enough for the jobs

Approximately the size of downtown St. Paul, Rice Creek Commons could be an ideal place for Amazon’s future facility, according to Arden Hills Mayor David Grant. 

“The council is supportive of the proposal,” he said in an interview. “The biggest benefit would be the substantial number of jobs it would bring.”

According to Amazon’s request for proposals, the company is looking for a site that can accommodate a facility that will, after 15 years, hold up to 50,000 employees.

Amazon said, on average, those new full-time employees will earn an annual salary of $100,000.

Those types of high-paying jobs are attractive to the city, Grant explained.

“That’s a big deal,” he said. “What’s in it for the city? Those jobs, pure and simple. And jobs will have a positive impact on local businesses and on home values.”

In its eight-page request for proposals, as part of phase one of its master plan, Amazon is asking for 100 acres of land or 500,000 square feet of existing office space on one or more sites. Grant noted that Rice Creek Commons has a planned 100 acres of commercial real estate that could be utilized. 

“Would they be the sole tenant then? Would they even want to be the sole tenant?” he asked, “We really don’t know at this point.” 

What is known, Grant said, referencing the request for proposals, is that Amazon wants 8 million square feet of traditional office space by the time it’s finished with its master plan. 

Just how big is that? For perspective, the IDS Center skyscraper in Minneapolis, the state’s largest building, is 1.4 million square feet. 

When asked if the presence of something so large — and a single company no less — would alter the character of the development, Grant said, “as a practical matter, that’s all yet to be worked out.”

Amazon will likely make its HQ2 decision next year.

 

The two sites 

Currently, Rice Creek Commons is planned to have residential neighborhoods, restaurants, retail and office space, as well as a number of parks and a trail system along Rice Creek. 

Ramsey County purchased the land in 2012 from the federal government for $30 million and, partnering with the City of Arden Hills, worked to clear the old munitions plant site of pollutants. 

When it was finally clean, officials from the county and city — in a group known as the Joint Development Authority — selected Minneapolis-based developer Alatus to prepare the land for development, a process that is ongoing. 

At its peak, the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant employed 26,000 people. It opened in 1941 and through the end of World War II in 1945, it supported the war effort manufacturing small arms ammunition. The site was operating again during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and then shut down completely in 2005. 

As for the site in St. Paul, it’s the former location of the Government Center West facility and jail near the Mississippi River. The county spent $17 million in order to demolish the buildings and prepare the land for whatever is next, which remains unknown.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815


 

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