A model of what the final Rice Creek Commons development could look like.
A model of what the final Rice Creek Commons development could look like.
Ramsey County

TCAAP land development changes

On Jan. 16, 2024, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners approved a purchase and sale agreement of a 40-acre plot of the Rice Creek Commons development area (formerly the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant), Outlot A.
What has happened
Outlot+A+%28shown+in+red%29+will+be+developed+by+Ryan+Companies+following+a+15-month+due+diligence+period+with+Ramsey+County.
Outlot A (shown in red) will be developed by Ryan Companies following a 15-month due diligence period with Ramsey County. (Ramsey County)

From a World War II ammunition plant to an upcoming urban development, the land area of Rice Creek Commons, formerly the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP), has undergone significant change over the past few decades. 

The TCAAP land was first settled by farmers in 1850, according to the city of Arden Hills, and the federal government acquired that land in 1941. TCAAP became fully functional in 1943 as a small arms plant for World War II. The ammunition plant operated until the Vietnam War ended when TCAAP was placed on standby in 1976. 

In 1981, solvents from the ammunition plant were discovered in groundwater wells neighboring the land. While the ammunition plant was in use, contaminated water and sewage were discharged into areas neighboring the plant and Round Lake. The U.S. Army began to clean up the contaminated area. To address the groundwater issues, the U.S. Army treats the current groundwater affected by the solvents and supplies residents through municipal systems from Saint Paul Regional Water Services.

Since the clean-up process started, many development proposals were presented to the city of Arden Hills. The first major development plan was in 2002 with Ryan Companies, known as the “Ryan Plan,” but the development plan was canceled in 2009 due to the Great Recession. In 2011, the Minnesota Vikings considered the land to create a new stadium. They ultimately decided to develop the stadium in place of the old Metrodome instead, likely due to pushback from city officials to keep the team in Minneapolis.

Ramsey County renamed the land Rice Creek Commons in 2014 after the county purchased the site in 2013 from the U.S. government. In September 2017, Amazon announced their plans to create a new headquarters, known as HQ2, anywhere in the United States. Ramsey County proposed the idea of building the new Amazon headquarters in the newly renamed Rice Creek Commons and downtown St. Paul. In 2023, Amazon decided to build its new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. 

Most recently, Ramsey County has entered a purchase and sale agreement with Ryan Companies to develop Outlot A, a portion of Rice Creek Commons that has been zoned for commercial use. The contaminated groundwater won’t affect the drinking water of future residents at Rice Creek Commons, Sara Thatcher told the Pioneer Press in 2017. The drinking water will instead come from St. Paul Regional Water Services. 

As Rice Creek Commons develops, the increase in housing raises a question regarding Mounds View Public Schools: How would this population spike affect the school sizes? 

Rice Creek Commons is included in the district boundaries. In 2017, Mounds View Public Schools anticipated an increase in students and created a $165 million bond referendum to add classrooms and expand other areas of different schools in the district, such as Pinewood Elementary School and Island Lake Elementary School.  

“We have always worked closely with our city partners as they approve and complete housing development across the community. Rice Creek Commons is the one remaining development that was part of the enrollment study and resulting 2017 Facilities Bond additions,” said Superintendent Chris Lennox. 

Although Rice Creek Commons has had a long history of development proposals and cancellations, the recent development proposal by Ryan Companies shows promise for the future of the development.

What will happen
Outlot+A+%28shown+in+red%29+will+be+developed+by+Ryan+Companies+following+a+15-month+due+diligence+period+with+Ramsey+County.
Outlot A (shown in red) will be developed by Ryan Companies following a 15-month due diligence period with Ramsey County. (Ramsey County)

When Ramsey County entered an agreement with Ryan Companies U.S. Inc. for $12.7 million, the county and the city of Arden Hills agreed that Ryan Companies would act as the primary development partner of the area.  Ryan Companies and the developers of the rest of Rice Creek Commons, Alatus LLC, are working with the Joint Development Authority (JDA) board, which consists of elected officials from Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills, to meet shared goals. “They are the same development, just simply from different developers,” said Arden Hills Councilmember Tena Monson. Both developers will follow a common thread that includes energy, jobs and affordable housing goals.

Outlot A, in a prime spot with access to highways and metropolitan areas, has garnered significant interest from potential developers. The Joint Development Authority (JDA) board, which consists of elected officials from Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills, issued a request for development interest for Outlot A. Six companies created proposals for the area, which included plans for commercial use, such as medical offices, financial institutions, hotels, and a research facility, and plans for a corporate center. “We’ve consistently heard from the Arden Hills community about the importance of creating stable, well-paying job opportunities at Rice Creek Commons,” said JDA Chair Jon Wicklund in a press release. “Ryan Companies’ plan is expected to bring hundreds of quality jobs to the north metro and will set the tone for a vibrant, thriving development.”

Eight days prior to the purchase of Outlot A, the Arden Hills City Council voted to amend the TCAAP Redevelopment Code and Arden Hills 2040 Comprehensive Plan from 1,460 to 1,960 housing units. The developers have committed to a minimum of 20% affordable or not market-price housing. “Our main goals are to ensure that we have lifecycle housing as well as a variety of price points,” said Monson. Lifecycle housing is tailored towards all age groups, from young professionals to retirees, and will include single-family homes, townhomes, condos and apartments. However, the plan still needs to undergo Metropolitan Council approval before the change is final.

Despite bordering multiple highways, the city plans to build a nature center that includes cross-country skiing, kayak rentals and integration with existing areas. “The county has a really great vision for that area to extend [The Rice Creek North Regional Trail Corridor] from the north,” said Monson. “We want to make sure people who go to visit can also get there on foot or bike really easily.” They plan to begin construction on the nature center once Rice Creek Commons is completed. 

Monson is confident that development of Outlot A by Ryan Companies will present new opportunities for Arden Hills and the area surrounding the city.

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