Developers interested in former Mankato public works site
MANKATO — Three developers want the opportunity to revitalize the last large vacant parcel near downtown Mankato — the old municipal Public Works complex adjacent to Cub Foods West and the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.
And all three are proposing a mix of business/office buildings and homes, at least some of which are aimed at lower-income renters.
"They all have an affordable housing component and multi-use component for the property," said Mankato Community Development Director Paul Vogel.
Along with roughly six acres of city-owned land, there are adjacent under-used and aging properties that could create an even larger redevelopment project.
"Some of them are showing partnerships with other property in the area," Vogel said of the preliminary plans.
Vogel and City Manager Pat Hentges aren’t providing much detail on the proposals, saying more discussion is needed with the developers before a choice comes to the City Council in March or April. Hentges said it’s likely at least one or two of the developers will be looking to enter an upcoming competition for limited federal tax credits or other subsidies aimed at creating new affordable housing units.
The council in November decided to use a "request for proposals" process rather than simply selling the land to the highest bidder.
The RFP process gives council members flexibility to chose the project they think has the most long-term potential or best meets critical needs in the community, even if another developer is offering a larger purchase price. An RFP also allows the council to reject all of the ideas and seek a new set of submissions.
The process provides some opportunity for negotiation as well, Hentges said. The developers, concerned that others may steal some of their ideas, have been guarded with details and will likely be asked to clarify their plans before they reach the council.
"It’s an ongoing, kind of open-ended RFP process," he said. "We have an ability to kind of enhance the proposals. ... I think you’re going to see one, if not two, rise to the top."
Hentges indicated the developers involved have a track record of tackling major projects.
"Who they are probably gives them a little credibility," he said. "I think we have some opportunities."
Even as negotiations and refinements continue, the site is being cleared of the 38- and 48-year-old warehouses and other buildings that served as garages for city trucks and buses, and housed streets department maintenance shops and offices before those were relocated to a more modern facility on Victory Drive. The structures have been reduced to rubble, and some pollution remediation may be needed.
Developers also will have to avoid proposing any major structures over a 72-inch stormwater pipe — part of Mankato’s flood-control system — that bisects the site. But there may be flexibility on street locations to give the developers more options. City officials have discussed the possibility of extending Stoltzman Road to the north past Riverfront Drive through the Cub Foods parking lot to Sibley Parkway. And Lamm Street could be closed to create more space for buildings.
"Some have suggested adding a street," Hentges said of the proposals. "Some have suggested vacating a street."
One factor that might be crucial is a developer’s commitment to moving forward in a timely manner.
"I don’t think the council is interested in tying up the site for some speculative futuristic proposal," Hentges said.