Wabasha Center (Former Macy's) - Downtown St. Paul

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lordmoke
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Wabasha Center (Former Macy's) - Downtown St. Paul

Postby lordmoke » September 18th, 2013, 8:25 pm

Figured I'd start a topic for this, as there finally seems to be movement:
http://www.startribune.com/local/east/224320921.html

at40man
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby at40man » September 19th, 2013, 9:36 am

It's in a prime location downtown, and the crossroads of many skyways and busy streets. It may not have been a strong performer towards the end, but I remember it doing brisk business when I was growing up in the 90s -- enough to justify 5 stories of retail space covering an entire city block. It's interesting that John Fransen (whomever he is) says that the site could attract a Nordstrom.

But just because it is for sale doesn't necessarily mean it will be quickly redeveloped. One of the problems I see in downtown St Paul is that some of the buildings change hands frequently and are viewed as shorter term investments rather than taking a long-view with owners who truly care about the success of their buildings and tenants. I think this trend has been turning around as of lately, though.

By the way, who owns the former Wabasha Court lot across from Macy's? I never looked closely until recently when I noticed that it wasn't merely a surface lot - it has underground parking, and I observed the exact same signs Target uses to indicate security cameras in its parking lots.
Last edited by at40man on September 19th, 2013, 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

mattaudio
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby mattaudio » September 19th, 2013, 10:03 am

So, anyone have a feel on if this would be razed or reused? Could those fortress walls be redone and clad with windows or something? Could parking ramp access be reconfigured in a way that acknowledges humans on 6th St? Could there be a dozen ground floor retail spaces, some sort of better public skyway/street connection, potential space for larger retail on 2nd/3rd floors, and office/residential above?

Or at some point will it just make more sense to raze it and start over. If that's the case, I hope they can take the parcel between Macy's, Hamm Bldg, and Lawson Commons and do something over there as well.

mulad
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby mulad » September 19th, 2013, 6:35 pm

I'm hoping that there are essentially two structures here -- the retail building itself and the neighboring (but partly integrated) parking ramp. The ground-floor space on the Wabasha side could probably be converted to smaller retail spaces pretty easily because there are display windows there already. The upper floors are completely lacking in windows (which is really depressing) -- I presume they could be added without too much trouble, though. Some tall but narrow windows would probably fit the existing aesthetic the best.

When I take the bus, I get dropped off in the morning just north of 6th Street along Cedar Street, and the sidewalk ended up very narrow there. Demolishing the parking structure would allow for more room along the sidewalk. However, I wonder if the CCLRT designers could have saved a couple of feet of right-of-way by doing something different with the catenary system -- the catenary poles in the middle are part of the problem, but I suppose they may have to reserve some space between tracks in case people are walking across as two trains come by (and I see a lot of people walking across those tracks each morning).

Even if the parking structure can't come down, I wonder if they could reduce its scale by mothballing about half of it -- just getting rid of one of the two exit ramps along 5th would be extremely helpful in improving the pedestrian experience.

Janet Moore at the Star Tribune noted that the building was designed by Victor Gruen (of Southdale fame), which is rather depressing. He also designed the Sears store by the capitol. There's some concern that people would try to defend it as a notable modernist building for that reason. http://www.startribune.com/blogs/224416301.html

uptowncarag

Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby uptowncarag » September 20th, 2013, 6:57 am

I wonder if a CityTarget would make it downtown. I am not sure if it would be better to save this building or start from scratch. Either way it is a prime location.

MNdible
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby MNdible » September 20th, 2013, 8:36 am

The "Burlington Coat Factory" comment is an interesting one. I know it's nobody's vision of the future of downtown St. Paul, but it's also a thing.

I feel like they, and a few other similar stores, have made it a business model of backfilling into struggling downtown retail areas.

at40man
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby at40man » September 23rd, 2013, 10:27 am

The arrival of Burlington Coat Factory tends to signify that a dying mall has "jumped the shark".

I am in constant awe of slow-witted Dave Thune:
City council Member Dave Thune has taken a dim view of the idea of a new office tower or apartments. In a June 7 email to Bedor, Thune asked the city to think creatively: "I am really intrigued by this idea of a home for small museums and shops and maybe a movie theater. We should look seriously at how we could make it work. Let's be quirky."
Downtowns need to have offices and apartments to draw people in. Filling the vacant Macy's space with "quirkiness" is silly - who, exactly, is this going to attract?

twincitizen
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby twincitizen » September 23rd, 2013, 2:40 pm

Perhaps I'm being closed-minded, but I can't think of any possible re-use scenario that would be better than razing that building and starting over...even if it has to be a surface parking lot for a while.

On the issue of Dave Thune: this guy has proven to be undefeatable, every 4 years, despite his infamy/notoriety in some circles. Obviously enough people like him to keep electing him. I heard this was going to be his last term (expiring in 2015). I hope there are several quality candidates lining up so this area can have a fresh conversation about the issues.

sanchopanza
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby sanchopanza » September 23rd, 2013, 6:16 pm

Image

Houston imploded there old Macy's over the weekend.
I hope St. Paul follows shortly.

bptenor
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby bptenor » September 23rd, 2013, 7:54 pm

twincitizen wrote:Perhaps I'm being closed-minded, but I can't think of any possible re-use scenario that would be better than razing that building and starting over...
For the love of all that's holy, tear this building down. I want wider sidewalks here. Trees. And windows please, lots and lots of them.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby FISHMANPET » September 23rd, 2013, 7:58 pm

You gotta post the video:

nate
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby nate » September 24th, 2013, 9:07 am

at40man wrote:The arrival of Burlington Coat Factory tends to signify that a dying mall has "jumped the shark".

I am in constant awe of slow-witted Dave Thune:
City council Member Dave Thune has taken a dim view of the idea of a new office tower or apartments. In a June 7 email to Bedor, Thune asked the city to think creatively: "I am really intrigued by this idea of a home for small museums and shops and maybe a movie theater. We should look seriously at how we could make it work. Let's be quirky."
Downtowns need to have offices and apartments to draw people in. Filling the vacant Macy's space with "quirkiness" is silly - who, exactly, is this going to attract?
In defense of Dave Thune (which makes me feel dirty, but I'll do it anyway...) there isn't exactly a hopping market for brand new retail, office, or living space in downtown St Paul. Besides the surface lot across Wabasha, there's three or four other big empty lots in the core that would be candidates for redevelopment, with hardly a nibble from developers for years. What exactly is the use of adding to that supply?

I agree that this is a dreary, lifeless building, but if it was reclad, and the 6th street side was redone, and someone (the city) kicked in for streetscape improvements, it probably has the bones to be useful. It could be cheap rentable space, nonetheless, and there's precedent for cheap rentable space turning into something interesting.

nate
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby nate » September 24th, 2013, 2:05 pm

So after looking at the map, there is less open developable space in the central core of St Paul than I thought - I forget the CCLRT is cutting across a block. Other surface parking lots, like the one next to Metro Square, are somewhat on the edge of the core, not in the middle of it. So maybe a developer would be interested in a full city block, right in the middle of the city.

I still am not sold on the thought of the Macy's building getting torn down with no solid plan in place for its replacement, and then having it languish as a surface parking lot for years and years. I could see that happening, easily.

at40man
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby at40man » September 24th, 2013, 2:13 pm

nate wrote: In defense of Dave Thune (which makes me feel dirty, but I'll do it anyway...) there isn't exactly a hopping market for brand new retail, office, or living space in downtown St Paul. Besides the surface lot across Wabasha, there's three or four other big empty lots in the core that would be candidates for redevelopment, with hardly a nibble from developers for years. What exactly is the use of adding to that supply?

I agree that this is a dreary, lifeless building, but if it was reclad, and the 6th street side was redone, and someone (the city) kicked in for streetscape improvements, it probably has the bones to be useful. It could be cheap rentable space, nonetheless, and there's precedent for cheap rentable space turning into something interesting.
Well, Dave Thune's comments almost never reflect reality. Unlike the other sites you mentioned, this takes up an entire block with existing skyway connections in the dead center of the CBD. We are having this conversation because a developer would like to purchase this property. A developer's goal is (hopefully) to make money. This is a positive signal that money can indeed be made.

I also see little demand for retail at the present, certainly not enough to fill up an outmoded 5 story department store that takes up an entire block. I would rather see this developer either find a useful purpose forthe store that will generate revenue, or demolish it for something else that will generate revenue. If Dave Thune wants mini-museums with a movie theater and smaller retail venues, I would remind him about the two adjoining properties - Town Square and the former Minnesota World Trade Center -- not to mention Galtier Plaza a few blocks away. Plus the Union Depot has been doing a good job of attracting events and art.

As far as office space, it depends if a company is interested in a significant amount of space there. CEOs of St Paul corporations have been reportedly encouraged by the recent growth of the area, and see value to be located there.
there isn't exactly a hopping market for [...] living space in downtown St Paul.
I disagree with you in regards to living space. The market has been indicating that there is indeed pent-up for residential housing in downtown St Paul as older offices and warehouses are rapidly being converted to apartments/condos. Rents in the area have skyrocketed since I lived there 5 years ago, and we've seen many new condo/apartment buildings go up over the past decade. These have been enjoying a high level of occupancy.

Rico
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby Rico » November 24th, 2013, 7:04 pm

A blurb in the Downtown St. Paul Voice (http://www.stpaulpublishing.com/downtown.html on page 4 under "Wabasha Street developments") indicates that the Macy's buiding will be coverted to office space.

uptowncarag

Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby uptowncarag » November 24th, 2013, 11:04 pm

Yikes,I was hoping for new construction with a citytarget.

mattaudio
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby mattaudio » November 24th, 2013, 11:40 pm

Yes, this is one rare case where I would have rather seen demolition.

bptenor
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby bptenor » November 24th, 2013, 11:57 pm

The building needs to go. Maybe plans will change before any renovation on the old Macy's gets off the ground.

at40man
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby at40man » November 26th, 2013, 3:07 am

Convert the building to office space? You have to be kidding me. This building is a bunker, a fortress. Sure, you can punch windows in it and reclad it -- but who would want to work in it? There is very little natural light. Hopefully their plans dazzle and amaze, because at this point I am disappointed. At the very least, I hope they salvage the River Room restaurant's interior. I'm curious if the other restaurants that used to exist in the building are still there after the store was downsized to 3 floors from 5.

Not to mention downtown St Paul isn't exactly hurting for office space at the moment. I absolutely love downtown St Paul, but Macy's and Town Square really kill the streetscape in this area. Alliance Bank Center isn't much better, either (why didn't they continue re cladding the rest of the building's podium?).

Wedgeguy
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Re: Former Macy's Site

Postby Wedgeguy » November 26th, 2013, 8:56 am

I would not get too worried yet. They have to pencil out the numbers to get this to work. They will have to spend a fortune to get this building into even class B rankings. If anything it will end up being a low rent government building. No real company is going to pay top dollar to have little natural light, even with windows added.


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