The New Brighton Exchange

New Brighton Exchange Aerial Photo

The New Brighton Exchange project is located at the northwest corner of Interstate Highways 694 and 35W in New Brighton. The project, which is the largest redevelopment project in the community's history, began in the mid-1980s when the City started planning efforts for the area. Elected officials, residents and the business community came together and agreed that the area needed to be redeveloped.

The goals of the project are to clean up environmental contamination from former industries, expand job opportunities, improve the tax base, create more housing choices, and help maintain New Brighton's image as a great place to live and work.

The following topics will provide additional information about this redevelopment.

  1. History

19th Century

The redevelopment effort in the New Brighton Exchange area stems from the early development patterns, dating back to the founding of New Brighton. The Minnesota Transfer Railroad Company was established in 1883. In 1888, the Minneapolis Stockyards and Packing Company was formed along the rail line leading from Minneapolis to Duluth. Slaughterhouses, packing plants, rendering works, and hide houses were located along "Butcher's Spur." Numerous hotels soon followed, including the four-story, brick Cattlemen's Hotel, later called the Exchange Building. The Village of New Brighton was incorporated in 1891. By then, fourteen passenger trains passed through daily.

The stockyards only lasted until about 1900, their decline hastened by a series of suspicious fires and competition from South St. Paul. But some of the uses survived for many more years. Beisswenger's Hardware took over the old hotel building, removing the upper floors and operating there until the mid-1980s, when a new building was constructed. Three rendering plants continued for many years; the Gordon (later Darling) plant until the late 1990s and the Mengelkoch operation until early 2004. The area nearby filled in with a mixture of industrial and commercial uses, some of which contaminated the land, groundwater, and nearby Long Lake and Rush Lake. Lowlands and swamps on the east side of the highway were filled in with construction and household waste in the 1960s. There were few restrictions on these types of activities.

Late 20th Century

New Brighton developed rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s. Spurred by the construction of north-south and east-west interstate highways, the City grew to nearly its current population of 22,500. The "New Brighton Exchange" was defined by the area east of Long Lake, on the "other side" of I-694 from most of the City.

By the early 1980s, leaders had grown concerned that the deteriorating, older portions of the City would negatively impact nearby areas. New Brighton embarked on a substantial redevelopment program throughout the oldest portions of town. In December 1981 a large "development district" was established, encompassing much of the eastern side of New Brighton, including the old downtown area, the heavy industrial area in the southeast, and the New Brighton Exchange area. Using tax increment financing, New Brighton spurred redevelopment of several underutilized areas for job-creating businesses, including Thermo King, Donatelle Tool, and Print Craft. Multi-tenant office and office/warehouse projects were also constructed during this period. When necessary, contaminated lands were cleaned up to appropriate standards.

New Brighton Highway 8 Corridor Plan

By the 1980s, Highway 8, the historic route from Minneapolis north through New Brighton to Forest Lake and Duluth, had been bypassed by I-35W. City leaders recognized that the corridor had declined and needed to be addressed, and commissioned a "New Brighton Highway 8 Corridor Plan" by Gair and Associates in 1986. This study reported, "… there exists land uses and vacant or under-utilized lands which may presently, or in the near future, be available for new development, redevelopment or rehabilitation." The report went on to say that the plan "is intended to be used as a resource document to locate and evaluate candidate development sites by persons desiring to consider New Brighton for future development or simply to market real estate." Fourteen sites were identified up and down the corridor, three of which comprised what later became known as the Northwest Quadrant, now New Brighton Exchange. The attributes of each site were described, and a conceptual plan was shown. Later, promotional materials were developed and advertisements were placed in publications such as "Corporate Report."

There was very little new investment in the New Brighton Exchange as a result of this planning and marketing effort. Industrial land uses were entrenched, in some cases without viable alternatives for relocation. Emerging environmental laws, placing a larger burden on redevelopers than on current users, also slowed developer interest. The size of the area and the nature of the uses (asphalt plant, rendering plants, trucking firms) discouraged parcel-by-parcel improvements. Meanwhile, the City continued to use public finance tools to spur cleanup and redevelopment of other areas. Most notably, the old downtown area just south of I-694 was transformed in the early and mid-1990s.

1997 Study

Recognizing the need for renewed action and seeing the opportunity to extend the new downtown character, another study was commissioned in 1997, jointly by Economic Development Services and Hoisington Koegler Group. This was a visioning process that included seven public meetings. The report recognized the value of the natural amenities, cited the impact of contaminated land, and looked more broadly at the area in conjunction with sites up and down I-35W. For the New Brighton Exchange, the plan called for a mixed-use development with residential uses to take advantage of the proximity to Long Lake.

This time it was recognized that the only way to implement the plan was for the public sector to take a more active role. Through successful redevelopment projects elsewhere, financial resources were available. Starting in the late 1990s the City started to assemble land throughout the 100-acre area. Since the entire area needed to be acquired in order to maximize the redevelopment potential, eminent domain was initiated in several cases, but settlements were negotiated prior to court hearings.

Environmental Studies

Environmental studies were conducted prior to acquisition of each property. When possible, cleanup responsibility was negotiated with sellers. But the City has been forced to accept several known risks in becoming involved with areas of contamination. Sometimes contamination has been found under buildings or, in the case of the asphalt plant, under stockpiles, and therefore cannot be fully assessed until after closing and demolition. Environmental regulators will not provide definitive requirements for cleanup or certification until detailed studies and proposals are completed. Standards and interpretations have changed over the years, and residential areas have higher standards than previous industries. Fortunately, agencies have recognized the public benefit in remediation and offer funding programs for assistance. The City has obtained substantial funds from federal, state, county, and metropolitan sources, and will continue to apply for outside funding at the appropriate times.

Development Partners

Over the same period, potential development partners were solicited. In 1999 Ryan Companies was selected as "master developer" for the entire area. Ryan assisted in planning and engineering work for more than three years, but was never able to reach agreement with the City on the terms of a redevelopment agreement. In 2003 the City advertised for housing developers, resulting in the selection of David Bernard Homes and Sherman Associates. Commercial developers were requested in 2006, resulting in further discussions with Ryan Companies on a more limited basis. (A new office project for Transoma Medical is under construction as a result of this partnership.) Additional interest has grown with the visible changes after building demolition and the upgrade of Old Highway 8 through the area. APi Group is proceeding to develop its headquarters building. Other potential developers are in the preliminary proposal stages.

The Future

Significant challenges remain for the redevelopment of the New Brighton Exchange, but many of the risks and most of the public investment has taken place. The City remains optimistic that the project can be fully developed over the next five to seven years in a way that reflects the vision of community leaders; enhances the environment; and adds options for living, working, and shopping; while minimizing negative impacts to existing City residents and businesses.

  1. Environmental: Existing Conditions - West Side
  1. Environmental: Existing Conditions - East Side
  1. Regulatory Standards & Approvals
  1. Cleanup Plans
  1. West Side
  1. East Side
  1. Development Reports