In 1999, a 26-member citizen task force recommended the city of Champlin rejuvenate the Mississippi riverfront in the old business district along Hwy. 169 near the Champlin-Anoka bridge and at the north end of the six-mile Mississippi River recreational pool. Since then, the city has worked to identify a redevelopment vision through a community planning process. After more than a decade since the idea was first born, Champlin is poised to approve the final development plans and could see groundbreaking on a marquee building in the area as early as 2013. Here are five things you should know about the Mississippi Crossings redevelopment project.
— COMPILED BY MINDY MATEUSZCZYK
1. Riverfront history
In the mid-1800’s, the site of the Crossings project was a steamboat landing area for migrating steamboats and was home to the Anoka-Champlin ferry service. During the 1900’s, the area blossomed into a vibrant central business district surrounded by growing neighborhoods.
Over time the area became home to apartment buildings and vacant lots that in recent years had become obsolete and according to Cox, an eyesore and a burden on taxpayers.
“The apartment building [that was recently demolished in the area] was averaging 2 police calls per unit per year,” said Cox. “The property generated very little taxes while requiring more in service costs than the revenue it brought in.”
2. A long time coming
The Mississippi Crossings redevelopment project has been a massive undertaking that has taken years to come into focus. Because of the soft economic market and other factors, the city has taken advantage of the opportunity to buy property in the area over the years, taking on the responsibility of razing dilapidated or outdated buildings to make way for the new vision.
“This has taken years and is something a developer wouldn’t be able to do with the demolition costs and hanging onto numerous properties for years before developing,” said John Cox, Champlin’s deputy administrator. The property was purchased at market value and eminent domain was not used in the acquisitions.
The city will act as the project’s master developer establishing the overall development plan and work to ensure the vision comes to fruition.
The preliminary redevelopment plan was approved in May 2011. There have been some modifications along the way and now, the planning commission will review the final redevelopment application Sept. 17 with the final plan expected to be presented for city council’s approval at their Oct. 9 meeting.
3. 70-acres of riverfront access
The vision for the Mississippi Crossings includes 70 acres of land along the banks of the Mississippi River that will be home to 450 new rooftops, or homes, as well as 185,000 square feet of new commercial space. An open-air amphitheatre, an apartment complex, a parking garage flanked by retail space, trails near the river and more are part of the plan.
Cox calls the project an opportunity for residents to take back access to the river and offer a location for entertainment and community gathering.
4. Marquee property
The city is in talks with an unnamed party interested in building a signature property in the area – a 2-story restaurant/event center with a rooftop bar and grill with panoramic views of downtown Minneapolis, the Mississippi River and even views of downtown Elk River. In the city’s development plan, the amphitheatre is nestled between the restaurant and the river, where there will be docking opportunities.
“People can dock and come enjoy a nice meal or entertainment at the amphitheater,” said Cox.
Cox expects the city will finalize the development agreements for the restaurant center by the end of 2012 with groundbreaking to occur in 2013.
While he has high hopes there will be a development agreement by the end of the year for the new apartment building, Cox says it will take longer – up to a year or more – for that stage of the project to be shovel ready.
5. Dollars and cents
Since 1995, Champlin’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) has invested $15.59 million acquiring and preparing sites in the Mississippi Crossings area. These investments were funded with proceeds from development projects and tax increment funds. No general fund tax dollars have been used for the project.
Overall, the project is a $32.5 million undertaking. In addition to EDA and investment funds, private funding will underwrite part of the cost. The city is also making efforts to secure some federal funding and other grant funding sources.
The redevelopment plan calls for $10.4 million in roadway improvements including $5.75 million in Highway 169 improvements. Earlier this year, the city’s request for federal funding was denied but they plant to resubmit a request next year for improvements that will upgrade roadway safety, congestion and access.
Additionally, they have applied for a $1 million grant through the Met Council and a $650,000 grant with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).