Apartments pitched for Island Station site.

 
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Byline: William Morris

The former Island Station power plant site in St. Paul has long been in search of the right project.

The onetime coal-burning plant at 380 Randolph Ave. was built in the 1920s but closed down in 1973. St. Paul River Walk LLC, an ownership group tied to Arizona businessman Robert Graham, bought the 10-acre riverfront property in 2014 and tore down the power plant, with plans by local developer Jim Lavalle to build apartments, offices and some public space on the site. By 2017, though, that project had fizzled.

Now a Chicago-area developer thinks it has the right plan for the site. Barrington, Illinois-based Stoneleigh Cos. and its affiliate Waterford Residential have approached the city with plans to build 240 to 250 market-rate apartments on the site. The $58 million Waterford Bay project goes before the city's zoning committee May 23 to obtain a conditional use permit for height, setbacks and other requests.

Key to Stoneleigh's vision for the project is the location, vice president of development Ryan Swingruber said in an interview. The property is on the north bank of the Mississippi River, just east of Shepard Road. The land to either side, including a peninsula creating a small river inlet to the east, is owned by Xcel Energy.

Stoneleigh hopes to tap into the existing bike and walking trails along Randolph and connect them to the river, and is in talks with Xcel to extend those connections onto the utility's land, possibly even including a new kayak landing on the river inlet.

"Obviously we are building apartments, but we are cognizant of the surrounding area," Swingruber said. "We're hoping to create a public and private connection through our property to allow public access to the river and extending the biking and walking paths."

Stoneleigh has had the land under contract since November, Swingruber said, and hopes to get the needed city approvals to close on the site in July. The timing is important because the property is slated for forfeiture to the state in August due to unpaid taxes of more than $342,000, according to Ramsey County records. Stoneleigh plans to remedy that during closing and hopes to begin remediating coal ash and other contaminants on the site before winter.

Golden Valley-based Benson-Orth is on deck as the contractor. Plans prepared by Minneapolis-based BKV Group depict a four-story building facing Randolph, stepped down to three stories facing the river. Parking and other amenity space...

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