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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Rihm Kenworth to leave the Midway after 85 years

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

DEVELOPMENT NOTES by JANE MCCLURE

West Midway is losing one of its longtime trucking businesses. Rihm Family Companies, Inc., which is one of the world’s oldest Kenworth truck dealers, has announced plans to build new facilities in South St. Paul and Coon Rapid. The company will leave its longtime location southwest of the Cleveland-University intersection.

The company turns 85 years old this year. Rihm also announced it acquired Red Wing-based LTX, Inc., which owns Lawrence Leasing Inc., the operator of Lawrence NationaLease. That commercial truck leasing company has 15 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. The acquisition bumps the company’s workforce to more than 300 workers, with 21 locations.

“Since 1932, the Rihm family has provided great jobs and exceptional customer service in Minnesota and western Wisconsin,” said Kari Rihm, president and CEO in a statement. “We’re pleased to begin our 85th year in business by welcoming Lawrence NationaLease’s high-caliber employees and management; providing better security for all of our employees; and improving service and offerings for our loyal customers. Our company’s future is very bright.”

But the company will leave the Midway after many years. Rihm was one of many industrial firms that raised concerns when the city rezoned many properties along University Ave. The change made the company a legal nonconforming industrial use.

A new location in South St. Paul at Concord Blvd. and Armour St., totaling 68,000-square-feet, will serve as RFC’s new headquarters and offer sales, parts, and service. A new location in Coon Rapids near Highways 610 and 47 totaling 75,000-square-feet will serve as a body shop, in addition to offering sales, parts, and service.

The company’s St. Paul facility will be sold, and the move to new facilities will be later this year.

Union Flats obtains financing
The Union Flats apartments at 787 Hampden Ave. are moving ahead. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, voted June 28 to authorize the sale of up to $32 million in conduit tax exempt and up to $2.5 million in taxable housing revenue bonds. The council also approved a waiver of the city development fee.

Total development costs for the project are more than $67 million. Union Flats has received several grants for environmental clean-up and site improvements.

Dominium Development wishes to construct a new 100 percent affordable rental apartment building at 787 Hampden Ave. near the Raymond LRT Station. Union Flats will have a mix of one to three-bedroom units, with 217 apartments total. The project site is the former headquarters for Hunt Electric; it was rezoned from industrial to traditional neighborhood use almost a year ago.

Dominium has extensive experience developing, owning, and managing affordable multi-family housing. Founded in 1972, the company is currently managing more than 25,000 units of housing in 23 states, and are the second largest owner of affordable housing in the country. Dominium has developed numerous other projects in St. Paul including Schmidt Artist Lofts, The Cambric, and Lonnie Adkins Court.

The city approved what is called a conduit revenue bond, which is essentially pass-through of financing. It doesn’t involve any financial risk to the city.

Historic redevelopment is challenged by Commission
Restoration and expansion of a historic University and Raymond avenues building has run up against opposition from the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). On June 22, the commission  voted to reject plans from Exeter Group LLC for storefront redevelopment at 2400 University Ave. and deny a requested building permit. The commission is asking the developers to come back with a new plan to rehabilitate the street-level storefront spaces. That could mean repairing and retaining the historic building materials or developing a replacement that replicates the extant historic materials and detailing.

Exeter also has the option of appealing the HPC decision to the St. Paul City Council. No appeal had been filed as of Monitor deadline.
Much of the property has been transformed from an old trucking company and warehouse into the C & E Lofts apartments. The remaining piece is what to do with storefronts that have housed a wide variety of uses over the years.

The space has one future tenant, a second location for the Naughty Greek restaurant. But HPC staff, the developers and BKV Group architects need to come up with a new plan for the storefront.

Exeter would like to rehabilitate the 6,000 square feet of commercial space along University Ave. into two separate 3,00 square foot spaces. The space has six bays and four doors. Some of the spaces have been modified. HPC staff estimates that about 75 percent of the historic storefront components remain. HPC staff, and most commissioners, oppose complete removal of historic storefront materials.

The HPC instead proposes limited demolition, and removal and reinstalling original brass decorative trim. At issue is how much work is needed, in light of deteriorated materials in many places, and what parts of the storefronts should be retained. Exeter Group contends that no historic materials are in poor condition and that windows and doors need to be reconfigured for a new tenant.

The debate over the request generated more than 70 emails to HPC staff; most focused on the prospect of bringing a new restaurant to the space. Many emails resulted from a social media campaign. Commissioners and HPC staff explained that the commission doesn’t regulate property use. Four people asked that the plan be denied.

The Naughty Greek, which has a location at Selby and Snelling, would open a second location in one part fo the building. Naughty Greek chef and owner Angelo Giovanis asked the commission to approve Exeter’s plans so that he could open a second space there.
A tenant hasn’t been announced for the second space.

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