St. Paul may develop downtown Macy's site

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The Star Tribune reports the St. Paul Port Authority has bid on the shuttered Macy's department store downtown after previous private bids fell through. Macy's has not yet accepted Friday's offer.

“We can confirm the store is for sale," said Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski, "but will have no comment until we have a sale.”

The Port Authority did not say what it would do with the 320,000-square-foot store, nor the terms of the offer.

The newspaper reviewed emails that showed St. Paul was considering a pre-emptive purchase last summer for $3.2 million. The estimated market value of the property is $8.8 million.

The Pioneer Press reported the St. Paul Port Authority is studying whether to retrofit the building or tear it down and replace it.

Meanwhile, it is not disclosing the amount of the offer while there are other potential suitors.

"We don't know who else is out there," said Port Authority President Louis Jambois. "We're not sure if there's anyone else out there. It wouldn't surprise us either way."

Jambois said the site is conveniently located on a new light rail line and has skyway access. He said a developer would likely tear it down and start over.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Cecile Bedor, director of the city's Housing and Redevelopment Authority, have said they don't think another retailer would do well on the site, and they have nixed the idea of a parking ramp. They said they would prefer a mixed-use development with high-end office space.

There was a tentative deal with California-based City Center Realty Partners in late summer, but the deal never closed, though Macy's appeared eager to sell.

"What the investors mentioned to our office was Macy's was requiring a shorter due diligence period compared to other commercial properties of that size," said Joe Campbell, a spokesman for Mayor Coleman. "What I can tell you is there's been larger than average interest in the property. The city continues to monitor it closely. With the amount of public investment that exists around it -- including the light-rail line -- it's a property that will be attractive to developers."

The newspaper reported others have expressed interest, including including Ted Bigos, the largest rental property owner in Minnesota, and John Fransen, president of Fransen Co., which has installed a movie theater, an Ikea and other large retailers in malls across the country.

Dayton's Department Stores built the store in 1963. It later became a Marshall Fields before being converted in recent years into a Macy's.

This is the first time in more than a generation that St. Paul has not had a major retailer downtown.

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