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Demolition gears up at former 3M site

Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Demolition is moving into high gear on the former 3M campus in St. Paul.

Within the next couple of weeks, St. Michael-based Rachel Contracting crews will begin to take down the largest building on the old 3M campus on the city’s East Side: an eight-story, 317,000-square-foot office structure known as Building 42.

Another structure, Building 2, also will be razed beginning in the next week or so, according to Monte Hilleman, vice president of redevelopment at the St. Paul Port Authority.

It’s the latest milestone in the effort to prepare the Port Authority-owned campus for the Beacon Bluff redevelopment, which is expected to attract 1,400 jobs to the struggling East Side.

“This is the biggest redevelopment we have done since Energy Park in the ’70s,” Hilleman said. “We believe it is huge for the East Side. … It is kind of the hole in the doughnut we need to close in with businesses and job creation.”

But before that hole can be filled, some of those old buildings have to go down.

Rachel Contracting, which was selected for the $3.1 million demolition contract in the spring, has razed the Building 99 complex, which includes multiple buildings, and Building 41.

Five other buildings — including the historic Building 21, the former 3M headquarters — will remain standing, at least for now, while Port Authority officials seek potential new users.

Those buildings represent the “historic core” of the campus, according to Port Authority officials.

Working with commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley, the Port Authority has agreed to market four of those buildings until at least January 2012. A fifth structure, Building 24, will be on the market until at least January 2011.

The deadlines leave “an out” for Port Authority officials in case they are unable to find any new users, according to Hilleman. He said interested parties have been looking at the site.

Deadlines and plans for the campus were negotiated as part of an 18-month community advisory process completed late last year. The goal was to balance the interests of redevelopment, historic preservation and job creation, Hilleman said.

A number of factors — including potential for reuse, historical value and practicality — determined which buildings would stay and which would go.

Bottom line, the doomed buildings are, by and large, “functionally obsolete,” Hilleman said.

Rachel crews have a big job ahead in demolishing Building 42 and Building 2.

“The big one (Building 42) will take a couple of months to take down,” said Hilleman. “3M engineers definitely built this stuff.”

One complication: Building 42 is connected by underground tunnel and skyway to another building that will remain upright, and the contractor had to remove those underground and above ground connections.

And some building parts will have to be carefully removed by hand or with small equipment.

“Building 2 is a five-story building, connected to an existing building that is remaining,” said Don Rachel, CEO of Rachel Contracting, which specializes in earthwork, demolition, environmental and utility work. “So we have to basically separate the building away from the remaining building before we start with typical demolition. We have crews doing that now.”

As part of the project, crews also will remove 30,000 tons of contaminated soils, excavate and repack an additional 44,000 cubic yards of dirt, prepare reclaimed concrete for use in new construction and restore and regrade the site, according to Rachel.

In addition, workers will add a pair of storm water collection ponds and compost and seed the site, among other tasks.

The project team will recycle materials such as copper, concrete, timber, stone, handrails and steel beams, according to Hilleman. Some recycled concrete will be used for backfill and soil remediation.

Roughly 80 percent of the waste from the Building 99 complex was diverted from landfills, according to Rachel.

“We will be recycling as much as possible,” he said.

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