St. Paul optimistic about options for Macy's site

12:24 PM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
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SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Some might consider the closing of Macy's in downtown St. Paul a major loss.

On Thursday city officials said they are taking a different tack, looking at the flight of the retail giant as an opportunity to hit the reset button in the effort to remake its downtown district.   

Macy's, Inc. confirmed what was widely reported Wednesday, announcing the closure of its Saint Paul store along with multiple other locations across the country.

The company released news of the closing in a written statement Thursday morning.

"We remain committed to operating a successful and growing stores business as part of our company's Omnichannel strategy for serving customers wherever, whenever and however they prefer to shop," said Karen M. Hoguet, chief financial officer of Macy's, Inc. "This leads us to open new stores where we see the opportunity to fill gaps in important markets, as well as to make the tough decision to selectively close underperforming stores that no longer meet our performance requirements or where leases are not being renewed."

On the heels of the official announcement, Saint Paul's Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) staff confirmed that they have already begun to consider reuses for the site, which will be one of four downtown light rail stops when the Green Line opens in spring of 2014.

Back in 2001, the city scrambled to keep Macy's from leaving St. Paul, providing a $6.3 million forgivable loan to assist with asbestos abatement and building improvements. Repayment terms for the loan expired on December 31, 2012.

"In 2001, downtown Saint Paul was in the beginning stages of recovery after several years of decline, and losing a big-box store like Macy's could have potentially jeopardized that recovery," said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "But today the face of downtown has changed, and we stand on a firm foundation that includes the building of hundreds of new housing units, a Lund's grocery store, the Lowertown regional ballpark, a revitalized Union Depot, and an almost completed Central Corridor light rail line." 

Those who look closely at business trends concur, saying stores like Macy's have found the suburban landscape a more successful setting.

"We understand that large national retailers have been trending for years to the suburban mall model," said Matt Kramer, President and CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. "And while we hate to see Macy's leave Saint Paul, we are very optimistic about the quick redevelopment of this site given its prime real estate location."  

Macy's also plans to consolidate two stores at Ridgedale in Minnetonka into one expanded store next year. A clearance sale at the St. Paul Macy's begins Monday, January 7.

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