The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District plans to buy the Cold Storage site on Blake Road, one of for future light rail development.
The Hopkins City Council approved a resolution Tuesday endorsing the watershed district’s plan.
Under the proposal, the district would buy the 16.9-acre property for $14.95 million with money raised from bond proceeds and repaid through the district's tax levy.
It would then restore about 1,000 feet of shoreline in one of the creek’s most degraded sections. That area would become a natural buffer to clean runoff before it enters the creek.
Minnehaha Creek would let existing businesses remain for the time being, using the lease payments to cover annual financing costs. After the leases expire, it would sell the property to a private developer, likely recouping much of the original purchasing costs.
Mayor Gene Maxwell envisions that the watershed district would rely on Hopkins to help promote the property for development consistent with the city’s mixed-use plans.
Said City Manager Mike Mornson: “They want to promote the redevelopment. They don’t want to be in the land business.”
The Cold Storage site—currently the location of rented refrigerated space, Deli Express as the primary tenant—has been seen as both an opportunity and challenge for development plans in recent months.
One of the toughest parts of development is assembling sufficient land for a project to take place, and the site at 325 Blake Road offers a nearly 17-acre property all under a single property owner, the Stewart Lawrence Group. The building's useful life is also nearing an end, making it worth more as new development and giving the owner a good reason to sell.
However, the current economic environment has made it difficult to find someone willing to actually buy the property for the mixed-use development that city planners want.
The Stewart Lawrence Group originally invested in the property with the intention to up-sell it for mixed-use development. But in February, the company said it plans to expand the building, arguing that this is the only type of development that the current economy can support.
A Minnehaha Creek purchase would give Stewart Lawrence the buyer it’s been looking for and give Hopkins a property owner with a similar vision for redevelopment. The city and watershed district and .
Minnehaha Creek Watershed District will hold a public hearing on the Cold Storage purchase at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the district offices in Deephaven (18202 Minnetonka Blvd.).