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Property’s price is right — but there’s a catch

Scott Carlson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Call it the $1 deal.

A bargain land deal awaits a developer with the best plans — as judged by the St. Paul Port Authority — for redeveloping a prime, five-acre site in the city.

Port Authority officials said they expect this fall to demolish the former Overnite Express buildings at Pelham Boulevard off Highway 280 and Interstate 94, paving the way for a new business use.

With completion of the project — paid for in part with a $600,000 state grant for contamination remediation — the agency will review development plans for reuse of the property.

The real estate investor judged to have the best development proposal will be able to buy the site for $1, even though the Port Authority paid $2.6 million for the property.

Port Authority officials said their agency bought the Overnite Express property, also known as the Pelham Business Center, with so-called brownfield development program bonds.

“Those bonds are tax-exempt,” said port spokesman Tom Collins. As a result, the port can accept only $1 as a token consideration if it sells that land, he said.

But for the eventual buyer, there’s a catch: The buyer must submit a workforce-development plan as part of the proposal.

“We want the buyer to make a commitment on the number of jobs, quality of jobs and pay for those jobs,” said Bill Morin, Port director of real estate and development.  “And we want St. Paul residents to have an opportunity to have those jobs.”

Port Authority officials are counting on St. Paul benefiting, over the long haul, from buying the Overnite Express site and reselling it.

“The whole purpose in acquiring the site is to bring more jobs than are currently there and have more development that will take advantage of what the site offers,” Morin said. “I am confident we can put something in there in fairly quick order.”

The Overnite Express site is home to four truck-related businesses employing fewer than a dozen people, according to port officials. The businesses are expected to leave the location by August.

Morin said Port Authority officials expect the redeveloped site could accommodate at least triple the space from the current 25,000 square feet of buildings with employment growing to 80 or more jobs.

“We think it (the Overnite Express site) will be well received because it is only two blocks from the (proposed) Raymond and University Avenue light rail station,” Morin said. He was referring to the Metropolitan Council’s plans to build a light rail transit line, the Central Corridor, along University Avenue from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul for nearly $1 billion. Plans call for light-rail line construction to begin this summer and for the line to be in service by 2014.

Bill and Bob Elsholtz bought Overnite Express in about 1970 and ran the company until about two years ago when they sold their truck freight carrier to Universal Am-Can Ltd. of Warren, Mich. Since then, the five-acre St. Paul site has continued to house a handful of truck-related businesses. The brothers sold the site to the Port Authority in April.

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