ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVE AWARDS: 
2017 WINNER

This project has been selected as a winner in the Natural Resources category:

Twin cities army ammunition plant (rice creek commons)

Project Summary

In April 2013, Ramsey County purchased a 427-acre parcel of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills with the goal of revitalizing a long-dormant industrial area into a vibrant residential, commercial and retail area. Work to redevelop the site – the largest Superfund site in Minnesota – has been overseen by a Joint Development Authority (JDA) consisting of elected officials from Ramsey County and Arden Hills.  

The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) was constructed in 1941-1942 to manufacture small arms ammunition for American and Allied forces during World War II, and remained in production until 1945. At its peak, the plant employed 26,000 people – more than half of whom were women. The plant closed after the U.S. declared victory over Japan, but was intermittently reactivated to produce small arms ammunition during the Korean and Vietnam wars. It became inactive in 1976. The cost, scale and risks associated with cleaning up the Superfund site precluded it from previous redevelopment efforts.  

Ramsey County invested $30 million in the demolition and remediation of the site to residential standards. Over a 32-month period, crews removed more than 49 miles of linear utility infrastructure from the site, more than 400,000 tons of concrete and asphalt, nearly 10,000 tons of PCB hazardous waste, more than 7,000 tons of asbestos-containing soil waste, and nearly 100,000 tons of non-hazardous impacted soil. In total, 93% of the materials removed from the site were recycled or reused in new roadways on the site and in other parts of the Twin Cities.
Ramsey County completed soil remediation in November 2015. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a Certificate of Completion in July 2016 through its Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup program to verify that soil had been restored to residential standards. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to delist the site from its Superfund list in 2017.  

With demolition and remediation complete, infrastructure construction on the last large-scale redevelopment opportunity in the Twin Cities is set to begin this year. Thousands of people will live, play and work at Rice Creek Commons. A 50-acre natural resources corridor winds through the interior of the site, providing a natural amenity and regional storm water treatment. The development would be powered by a planned 8-12 megawatt solar installation.    

A section of Rice Creek flows through the Rice Creek Commons development. This summer, Ramsey County collaborated with the Rice Creek Watershed District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on an innovative project to transform Rice Creek back to its original, meandering path and stabilize its banks with native plants and trees. Completed in July 2016, the project resulted in nearly 2,000 new feet of stream, a restored floodplain, and the creation of high-quality wetlands. Rice Creek will serve as a premier feature of a 50-acre natural resources corridor that winds through the site, providing both a natural asset and regional stormwater treatment.

Project Website

http://www.ricecreekcommons.com

Project Partners

  • Ramsey County
  • City of Arden Hills
  • Alatus, LLC
  • Inland Development Partners and Tradition Development Corporation
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Rice Creek Watershed District
  • Carl Bolander & Sons
  • Wenck Associates, Inc.
  • Bay West, LLC

How did the project partners work together?

In 2012, Ramsey County and Arden Hills entered into a Joint Powers Agreement, which created a Joint Development Authority (JDA) to oversee redevelopment efforts and accomplish common goals.

The JDA is comprised of two county commissioners, two city council members, and a non-elected city appointee. It is the first joint powers board created to redevelop a former Superfund site, which helped streamline governmental approval processes and keep the cleanup and redevelopment initiatives on schedule.

In May 2016, the JDA selected Alatus, LLC as the master developer for Rice Creek Commons to guide the area’s overall residential and commercial development. Founded in 2005, Alatus LLC is a Minneapolis-based real estate development company with expertise in residential multi-family, office, and single-family home development. For the Rice Creek Commons project, Alatus is partnering with Inland Development Partners on commercial development and Tradition Development Corporation on single-family residential development.

Collaboration and cooperation among the public and private sectors is critical to the success of brownfield redevelopment. The scope of the partnerships between local, county, state, and federal elected officials and government agencies working in tandem with private sector firms to develop land of this scale in a major metropolitan region is very rare, if not unprecedented.

How is the project groundbreaking?

Typically, development projects are led by private companies from start to finish. Because of the high level of contamination and unknown risks associated with the cleanup, developers were not willing to risk purchasing the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site. In fact, Ryan Companies pursued redevelopment efforts in 2008, but the company decided not to purchase the site due to high cleanup costs and the economic downturn.

Ramsey County realized that this site would continue to lay vacant, polluted, and off the tax rolls for years to come unless it paid for the cleanup efforts up front. As a government entity, the county was able to negotiate a favorable purchase agreement with the federal government, in which the federal government assumed liability for any unknown or undiscovered contamination in excess of MPCA industrial cleanup standards that was found during the cleanup process. The county will recoup its investment through the sale of the land to a developer and additional tax base on the site. 

One challenge that the project team faced was how to conduct robust sampling of a site so large. The team applied a technique called Incremental Sampling Methodology (ISM), which had not been used previously in the Minnesota Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program. The project was ideally suited to the ISM approach, and more than 2,370 soil borings were taken to assess site soil in a statistically relevant and defensible manner. The results met the regulatory agency’s need for validated data upon which to base site decisions.

Without Ramsey County taking leadership in readying the property for development, the site would likely still be an inactive brownfield.

What are the project goals?

Ramsey County purchased the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant with the intent to clean, redevelop and reestablish the property as the economic engine it once was – this time with homes, businesses and retailers.   

The county has eight specific goals for this project:  

  1. Increase the tax base
  2. Create jobs 
  3. Improve transit and mobility opportunities 
  4. Diversify housing products
  5. Boost community vitality
  6. Enhance recreational opportunities 
  7. Protect natural resources 
  8. Encourage energy and environmental resiliency  

Ultimately, this project is about transforming a contaminated parcel of land into a community asset, and Ramsey County is committed to prioritizing sustainable features in the development. As master developer, Alatus shares a commitment to the environment and is interested in exploring sustainable features, such as solar energy, geothermal heating and cooling, water conservation, composting, and other demand-side management strategies. 

What are the project outcomes?

The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant is no longer a blighted, polluted brownfield. It is a historic development opportunity that will be guided by common goals of creating jobs; establishing a walkable, live-work-play community; reducing carbon emissions; and creating an amenity-rich, mixed-use environment that allows people from all walks of life to prosper.   

Alatus will ensure that Rice Creek Commons is a thoughtfully designed community that includes a variety of housing types and neighborhoods that weave seamlessly into a network of trails, green corridors, and pedestrian-friendly streets. A 50-acre natural resources corridor winds through the interior of the site, providing a natural amenity, and 24 acres of active park space are planned within the site. Combined, these features will create a visually distinct and dynamic place that is rich in texture and embraces the natural environment.  

All commercial and residential development at Rice Creek Commons will be powered by an 8-megawatt solar installation located on an adjacent 40-acre parcel of land – an area that spans larger than 30 football fields. Estimates show the installation has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by more than 7,500 tons annually, which is roughly the amount produced by 1,432 cars. Additionally, stakeholders envision net-zero residential neighborhoods made possible by using energy generated from ongoing water treatment at the site.

When fully developed, Rice Creek Commons will serve as a model for other large-scale developments across the country. As a result, Minnesota can solidify its reputation as a welcoming place that provides a great quality of life to people of all ages and backgrounds.

 


Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401
 

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Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors

CATEGORY SPONSORS

Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader

Aveda

Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors


Minnesota Power



partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors

AFFILIATE SPONSORs

CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners