Ramsey County Commissioner Nicole Joy Frethem is holding a series of community "dialogue circles" to discuss the future of the stalled Rice Creek Commons development in Arden Hills.
The county, which owns the 427-acre parcel formerly known as the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP), and Arden Hills are gridlocked over the site's development, with the county taking the extraordinary step of suing the city in 2019. For years, county leaders have pushed for more density and more affordable housing than city leaders find palatable.
In June, a judge refused Ramsey County's request to dissolve its power-sharing agreement with the city governing the future of the site, saying that the two sides need to work out their differences.
Frethem, who represents northern suburbs, including Arden Hills, said this week she will conduct six public sessions to discuss the litigation and the future of the site. Four of the sessions will be at parks in Arden Hills; two will be online.
"It is time for an open, forward-looking dialogue about the future of our community and this project," Frethem said in a letter to city leaders, fellow county commissioners and the community at large. "Through such a dialogue, I believe, we can rebuild strong relationships together."
Frethem was elected to the Board of Commissioners in fall 2019, after the county sued Arden Hills. Her invitation to the dialogue sessions avoids taking sides or discussing the specifics of the dispute between the city and county, instead focusing on her goals for the property.
"I still believe that what is built on this site must achieve the common goals of creating jobs; establishing a walkable live-work-play community; and developing an attractive, amenity-rich, mixed-use environment that appeals to current and new residents, businesses and the greater community," Frethem wrote. "I look forward to learning and hearing from the community on how we can make this happen together."
The first meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Tony Schmidt Regional Park Pavilion. The other in-person meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2 at Hazelnut Park Shelter; from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at Valentine Park Shelter, and from 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 15 at Floral Park Shelter.
The virtual meetings will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 13 and 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 14 via Microsoft Teams.
Arden Hills Mayor David Grant confirmed that he received Frethem's letter but didn't comment further.
The Army originally owned the TCAAP site and used it for a munitions factory from World War II through 1976. The site was added to state and federal Superfund lists in the 1980s after the discovery of decades of pollution tied to the manufacturing.
Ramsey County bought the site from the federal government in 2012, with Arden Hills' blessing. The county has spent more than $40 million on the property and ensuing environmental cleanup, and the property is now ready for development. It's the largest shovel-ready tract of land in the county and equivalent in size to downtown St. Paul.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037