Crews began tearing down the burned-out eyesore at the former Midway Shopping Center in St. Paul on Tuesday, 16 months after rioters torched the building in the wake of George Floyd's killing by police.
The city of St. Paul issued the demolition permit late last week after months of delays caused in part by an incomplete application, city officials said.
The teardown of the once-bustling mall with an Office Depot, Peking Garden, Family Dollar, Sally Beauty Supply, Foot Locker and GameStop is the first step to ushering in a new chapter of development next door to Allianz Field, near the corner of Snelling and University Avenues.
Property owners and operators Rick Birdoff, RD Management, RK Midway and Minnesota United FC soccer team owner Bill McGuire received city approval five years ago for a master redevelopment plan that calls for offices, apartments, a hotel, parks and other amenities to create an urban village.
But much to the frustration of neighbors, progress on that new project, known as United Villages at Midway, has been hard to see.
Long after tenants were forced out after rioters burned and looted stores in the Midway Shopping Center in May 2020, the property and adjacent Big Top Liquors sat disheveled, charred and fenced in. Neither Birdoff nor McGuire have responded to calls seeking updates.
Last month, Big Top Liquors was demolished at the request of the city. Now it is time for the mall to also come down, city officials said.
Mortenson Construction has hired Brooklyn Park-based Ramsey Cos. to demolish the buildings and clean up the site. It is unclear when Mortensen might begin construction of the planned urban village.
Chad Kulas, executive director of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, said he looks forward to what's next.
"When people go to Allianz Field, they see beautiful new apartments across Snelling," he said. With the demolition of the Midway Shopping Center, "someday they'll see more new buildings that fit in perfect with the rest of the block."