Editorial by Craig Klausing 
Published in the Pioneer Press

First-ring suburbs face a number of challenges: declining commercial and industrial areas, polluted brownfields and an aging housing supply. The continued vitality of first-ring suburbs means reclaiming those industrial areas, renewing the commercial base and creating new housing opportunities.

It is not often that a community has the opportunity to accomplish all of those goals through a single project. However, Roseville has just such an opportunity with the proposed redevelopment of Twin Lakes. Unfortunately, the "Taking Exception" column (Jan. 23) by Roseville City Council member Amy Ihlan was typical of the approach taken by the critics of this project. Their argument focuses on one portion of the project (the big-box retail), misstates its impact and ignores a host of benefits.

A little perspective is in order.

This project represents the first phase of the 170-acre redevelopment of the area northeast of Country Road C and Cleveland Avenue. Twin Lakes was developed as an industrial area in the 1950s. Because of its convenient location and accessibility to the highway system, the area saw a major concentration of over-the-road trucking operations. However, with the deregulation of the trucking industry in the 1980s and the resulting business consolidation, many of the trucking firms and related businesses closed. This meant vacant buildings, contaminated soil and underused property.

The preliminary plan recently approved by the Roseville City Council accomplishes the goals of reclaiming polluted land, bringing in new businesses, expanding our housing options and doing so in a financially responsible manner. The plan creates 30 acres of residential uses consisting of 730 new housing units. The plan also contains 10 acres of office uses and 30 acres of retail and restaurant uses. The current market value of the property is $28 million, generating $430,000 in annual property taxes.

It is estimated that the proposed project will create $200 to $220 million in new market value generating $4 million to $7 million in new property taxes annually.

However, to the critics of this project, none of this matters because the project also includes the addition of a single big-box retailer.

Critics argue that Roseville cannot support more retail and existing retailers need protection from this competition. However, this assertion is directly contradicted by what is happening in Roseville. Despite knowing that this project was pending, Rosedale Shopping Center recently sought approval for a significant expansion. The nation's first Target store, located in Roseville, is in the process of being completely rebuilt and expanded.

The addition of one large retailer is not undermining the existing retail base and, arguably, is improving it.

The arguments regarding traffic are equally off the mark. Ihlan argues that traffic volume along Fairview Avenue "will more than double to levels of nearly 16,000 cars per day." However, she is comparing current traffic figures to traffic projections for the year 2020.

A more helpful comparison would be between traffic projections with the project and without. For the year 2020, those numbers are 15,100 with development and 12,500 without.

In other words, the increase in traffic with this project is 2,600 trips per day, nowhere near "more than double." More important, approval of this project will result in 3,500 fewer trips per day than the 18,600 trips projected under the existing master plan for this area.

Ihlan contends that the developer is "demanding more than $40 million in public subsidies." This is simply not correct. Presumably she is referring to the gap between the estimated cost to prepare this site for redevelopment and what the property can be sold for. The $40 million figure is six months out of date; the current gap is $27 million and the city continues to work to narrow it. In addition, what the city is actually considering is using a portion of the new taxes generated by this project to reimburse the developer for the costs of constructing public infrastructure (roads, pathways, ponding, etc.) as well as contamination clean up and removal of dilapidated buildings.

Clearly this project offers Roseville an opportunity that few communities ever enjoy.

It would be a shame if it were lost as the result of a misplaced objection to one small portion of a much larger project.

Klausing is mayor of Roseville.

2006 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.