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$9.5 million Central Exchange project planned for Frogtown neighborhood

Central Exchange, a mixed-use development that's planned for St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood, will help turn around a site that has long been rundown.

Historically, the neighborhood as a whole has been under-invested in when compared with other parts of the city, according to Craig Johnson, who is the project manager for developer Model Cities.

Model Cities, which is based just a block-and-a-half away from the University Avenue site, wants to be a part of its improvement, he emphasizes.

For the project, the organization has acquired four vacant commercial properties that he describes as an “eyesore on the avenue.” It has often attracted vandalism, he says.  

Johnson says that the development will provide a boost to the area. “It’ll help make the area more attractive,” as opposed to somewhere that one would merely drive through.

Two of the buildings on the properties have been torn down, while the city will soon demolish the remaining couple of structures, he says.

Model Cities may also acquire another adjacent property, for which it’s trying to secure financing.

Central Exchange will have ground-floor commercial space along with a couple of stories of housing.

Altogether, there’ll be 30 to 45 units of mixed-income housing. Depending on its final footprint, the project could cost anywhere from $9.5 million to $13 million, according to Johnson.

The commercial spaces will be “oriented towards nonprofits, educational institutions or small businesses,” with an eye on what’s “useful to the community,” he says.

Model Cities is planning to install green roofs that will allow for urban gardening and stormwater management, as well.

The complex will alternately rise up one and three stories in different areas, to help break it up, visually. “If we built this as one big building it might have a more imposing feeling,” he says.

The coming Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line helped make the development possible. As such, “We see this project as a part of something bigger that’s going to really help the community.”

Construction at the site is scheduled to finish up in the spring of 2014.

Source: Craig Johnson, project manager, Model Cities
Writer: Anna Pratt
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