Public-private projects on rise in Twin Cities.

 
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Byline: William Morris

Developers today increasingly face questions never faced by earlier generations of builders, and they're working directly with local governments to find answers.

Public-private partnerships are increasingly common as developers tackle major projects in the Twin Cities, panelists said Tuesday at a member meeting of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. In addition to providing streets and sewer lines, public entities play a growing role in guiding and supporting development, said Tony Barranco, senior vice president of real estate development at Ryan Cos. US Inc.

"As we look at land use and planning pressure is being put on both cities and private developers to solve more than just a what-do-we-use-this-land-for challenge," Barranco said during a discussion with other local business and government leaders. "We're looking at how to solve major issues that we have. Sustainability issues, climate issues, where can we house the next generation of folks that live within the Cities, how can we better treat our water all of that is now being encompassed within the development process, which is really a new undertaking."

Many east metro communities, especially St. Paul and inner-ring suburbs, are fully developed, so new projects mean redeveloping existing properties, said Louis Jambois, former president of the St. Paul Port Authority. Public entities play a key role in identifying redevelopment sites and clearing buildings, pollution and other obstacles so private developers have a clean slate.

"The private sector provides the capital, the creativity and the development know-how," he said. "It takes both sides to really do decent economic development activity in the Twin Cities, but [is] really important in fully developed areas of the Twin Cities."

Governments also are playing a bigger role in setting the direction for redevelopment. Ryan is the master developer for St. Paul's former Ford Motor Co. factory site, which Barranco said will be a $1.3 billion project. Rather than devise its own plan and pitch it to the city, Ryan inherited an extensive master plan developed over 10 years by the city in coordination with numerous stakeholders.

Ryan is currently working with the city to make a number of changes to the plan, which includes more than 50 acres of civic space that would be impossible to finance privately, Barranco said.

"We're hard at work figuring out how to take this very precise plan, which we love, and put some...

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