St. Paul Council Approves Modern Urban Village for Former Hillcrest Site on East Side

What was once a failed golf course on the east side of St. Paul is now the capital’s second biggest foray into creating a modern urban village, seeking to combine much-needed housing with well-paying jobs.

St. Paul City Council voted 5-0 on Wednesday to approve the master plan for the development of the former 112-acre Hillcrest Golf Club site on the city’s northeast corner, renamed The Heights.

The city and the Saint Paul Port Authority, which is developing the site, are now beginning work to create 1,000 homes and 1,000 jobs in a part of town desperate for both.

“The thing we can be most proud of with this project…is a plan that will uplift the people of the East Side,” said city council member Jane Prince.

Council member Nelsie Yang, who represents the region, was not at the meeting as she is due to give birth. But she released a statement praising the project and the collaboration it took to complete the master plan.

“It’s an exciting day,” Yang said.

The next step, Port Authority spokeswoman Andrea Novak said, is finalizing a cleanup plan. After decades as a golf course, where fungicides were used on greens and tee boxes, the site now needs to be decontaminated of mercury and other pollutants. The authority estimates that the work will cost around $2.5 million.

“Remediation plans start in October 2022 – that’s when people will start to see things happen,” Novak said. “It keeps us on track to start building in late 2023. And it gives us occupancy from late 2024.”

The Heights is only slightly smaller than the Highland Bridge development, the former Ford Motor Co. factory site being developed in the St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood. But city officials hope it will become even more distinctive.

Where Highland Bridge will include dozens of multimillion-dollar homes and tony townhouses to accompany more affordable housing options, officials hope the heights will make St. Paul stand out as one of the truly green communities. of the planet. City planners are exploring ways to create the city’s first carbon-neutral neighborhood. Novak said work is continuing.

Some also see the site as an opportunity to provide jobs where you work, and affordable housing advocates want to put even more emphasis on developing deeply affordable housing and viable gainful employment for East Side residents. .

Benjamin Werner, director of the housing justice program at the East Side Freedom Library, said he and others hoped many of those jobs would go to underemployed East Side residents. It would start with companies willing to train employees on site, he said.

“At least some of the jobs have to go to the people who are there,” Werner said.

Officials formed four working groups focused on urban design, sustainability, outdoor spaces and housing. Community input is needed, they say, to help bring the final development plan to life.

Hillcrest opened as a municipal golf course in 1921 and in 1945 became a private club for Jewish golfers, who were excluded from other clubs in the area. Membership restrictions were lifted in the 1970s.

Steamfitters Pipefitters Local 455 bought Hillcrest in 2011 for around $4 million and closed the golf club six years later. In June 2019, City Council approved the borrowing of $10 million to fund the Port Authority’s purchase of the site.

The authority has helped redevelop other projects, including Macy’s old downtown building and Allianz Field.

Plans for the heights include 5 acres of parkland and 15 acres of open green space. The authority estimates the site could ultimately produce $250 million in development and $5 million a year in property tax revenue.

By comparison, Ford’s site is expected to be worth $1 billion and generate $18 million in tax revenue annually.

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