Hempel ready to dig in at Macy’s

The St. Paul Port Authority on Tuesday formalized plans to kick off the dramatic transformation of a shuttered downtown Macy’s that has sat atop its to-do list.
A Port Authority meeting agenda released last Friday introduced Minneapolis-based Hempel Cos. as its new development partner on the $60.6 million project. The switch came six months after it had selected Excelsior-based Oppidan, but delays in firing up the massive renovation pushed the agency in a different direction.
With a new partner approved by a board of commissioners, the Port Authority will start bringing retail, office and medical office tenants to the 540,000-square-foot complex, which has a parking ramp. Plans put a 500-seat Minnesota Wild practice facility on the top level, and include a 25,000-square-foot Walgreens.
The parties on Tuesday declined to name other specific tenants, but Randy McKay, a principal at Hempel, said he expects between six and 12 businesses will fill the space. Hempel will continue talks with existing prospective tenants and invite more to the table, he said.
“There are six or seven tenants that are very interested that have hung in there with the project,” McKay said. “There have been undulations – I wouldn’t call it a delay – but during this time period, they’ve been willing to hang in there because they believe in [the project].”
Jamie Spencer, the Wild’s vice president of new development, said the team wasn’t shaken by the developer change. The team remains the project’s most visible prospective tenant, and expects to make headway with a developer firmly in place.
“We’ve expressed interest to this point but now it allows us the chance to have further discussions with Hempel and the Port Authority on what role we can play in the Macy’s project,” Spencer said.
So far, the overhaul has taken longer than expected to get started. The Port Authority in recent months has teased progress, but Tuesday’s move marks the biggest tangible step forward. The agency’s former president, Louis Jambois, said last fall he hoped to solidify project plans before he retired in February.
The five-story building sits at 396 Wabasha St. in the city’s downtown core, but the area has languished since the store closed in 2013. Shortly after, the Port Authority paid $3 million for the property and began mapping out its vision.
Hempel’s design tweaks a proposal set forth by Oppidan last year, aimed at glitzing up the 1960s-era building and its largely windowless exterior. Where Oppidan emphasized expansive windows, Hempel will focus in part on maintaining some of the building’s brick and concrete to lower costs.
In addition, the new developer reworked the Wild’s rink design to shave a month off its construction timeline. Initial site work, including asbestos removal, could start as soon as next month.
Port Authority officials have said they spoke with more than 50 developers about the project, billed as a major private investment driver. The agency opened discussions with Hempel in February, and broke off its talks with Oppidan within the past few weeks.
Construction is expected to wrap by September 2017.

Related content:

Oppidan out, Hempel in for St. Paul Macy’s redevelopment
‘Daily’ talks continue for Wild practice facility             
First domino tips for Macy’s

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