Preliminary plans revealed for former Anchor Block site

courtesy of Google Maps • Developers of the former Anchor Block site shared plans with the North St. Paul City Council to build a variety of residential and commercial buildings on the lot. The vacant lot is located between McKnight Road, Highway 36, Third Street and South Avenue. The Gateway Trail bisects the lot into two parcels. Preliminary plans indicate the section south of the trail could be turned into townhomes, while the section north of it could be a mixture of apartment buildings, a self-storage facility and a coffee shop.

The North St. Paul City Council received an update on the development of the former Anchor Block property at an Aug. 8 special city council workshop.

Steven Schwanke, a representative of Inland Development Partners, which has purchase agreements for the north and south portions of the former Anchor Block site, explained to the council the company’s plan for building a variety of residential buildings on the property, as well as a multi-level storage facility and possibly even a coffee shop.

The former Anchor Block site, which has remained vacant for several years, is located between McKnight Avenue on its west side and Third Street on its east side. It is south of Highway 36 and north of South Avenue. The property is bisected by the Gateway Trail, forming a north parcel and a south parcel.

Inland Development Partners, which deals with commercial real estate development, is handling the development of the north parcel itself, but is partnering with M/I Homes, which focuses on residential development, for the development of the south parcel.

Schwanke explained to the council that although the north parcel has a retail feel, Inland Development Partners has determined that retail is not the best use for the site based on low levels of interest from retailers in addition to some infrastructure problems, such as a $1 million access road that would need to be built along McKnight Road.

Schwanke said that since June, the development company has “pivoted” to a new concept focusing on providing multi-family housing in that space. 


North parcel

Preliminary plans indicate two or three apartment complexes could be built, each four floors high. These buildings would collectively provide accommodations for about 250 families.

However, Schwanke brought up that not many residents will want to neighbor an asphalt plant like T.A. Schifsky & Sons, Inc., which borders the east side of the north parcel.

“I’m sure they’ve got a great business and they’re great people, but residential doesn’t do real well right up against that,” Schwanke said.

To reduce potential problems, Inland Development Partners proposed developing about an acre of the lot’s northeast section as a four- or five-story climate controlled self-storage facility, which would act as a buffer between Schifsky’s and the new apartment complexes.

Then a small coffee business would be built just north of where the Gateway Trail meets McKnight Road.

While the idea of the apartments and the coffee shop seemed immediately favorable to council members, the possibility of including a storage facility on the site generated quite a bit of conversation. 

City Manager Craig Waldron summed up several of the comments when he explained that self-storage facilities are not often desirable ways for cities to develop because they tend to look bad, sprawling as a single story across the landscape, and they do not produce many jobs.

However, he noted that in this case it would be an appropriate location for such a business.

“To me, this is a different context where it really solves a problem for us and provides an amenity, I think, for the houses,” Waldron said.

Schwanke pointed out that self-storage facilities have come a long way in the past 30 or so years, adding that many of the new facilities, similar to the one that would be built in North St. Paul, look more like an office building than traditional garage-style storage facilities. 

By the end of the discussion, it seemed the council was in agreement that self-storage could work in the suggested location.


South Parcel

Following the council’s informal thumbs-up on the development direction of the north parcel, John Rask from M/I Homes explained the preliminary plans for the south parcel, which is predominantly surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

The plan for the south parcel includes 106 units of townhomes, which would be for sale, unlike the apartments rented out on the north site. Rask said the townhome units would be designed with plenty of natural light and open floor plans for a loft-like feel, each selling for around $260,000.

The front of the buildings would all face outward toward McKnight Road, South Avenue, Third Street and The Gateway Trail. Residents would have vehicle access to their garages, situated at the back of the units, via private roads, which the townhome association would maintain, along with the landscaping around the properties. Association dues would be about $175 per month.

The council raised no major issues with the plans for the south parcel and again gave an informal nod of approval to the direction of the developer’s plans.

If all goes according to plan and the council approves formal plans down the line, ground could be broken at the south site in spring 2019, while the groundbreaking at the north site could take until summer 2019.


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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