Sartell seeks CMBA members’ input about redeveloping former paper mill site

Central Minnesota Builders Association (CMBA) members participated in a meeting and site tour to discuss possibilities and next steps for redeveloping Sartell’s newly acquired former Verso Paper Mill site along the east bank of the Mississippi River in Sartell.  The city closed on purchasing most of the property on June 14.  

The large property has been vacant since Verso abandoned the site after an explosion and fire in May 2012. The former mill buildings and equipment were torn down and removed from the site years ago, although wide areas of thick concrete footings remain across much of the property.

City of Sartell development consultant, Anita Archambeau, coordinated the site tour and input session with CMBA. Archambeau said broad input from a community-wide survey and meetings with city leadership and stakeholders have yielded a common vision. The “Vision Principles” for redeveloping the site include:

  • Areas for social interaction
  • Neighborhood/mixed-use focused development
  • Making the property a “distinguishable destination” area
  • The site would need to be made “development ready”
  • Redevelopment would need to improve the fiscal position of the City of Sartell

CMBA members asked questions about the next steps in redeveloping the site, how the city of Sartell plans to cover what are expected to be huge costs to make it “development ready,” how the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad running along the east edge of the property and Department of Natural Resources setbacks from the river complicate matters, relocation of infrastructure and more.

CMBA members were intrigued by the potential for redeveloping the property, which could include building multifamily residential structures featuring main-level retail and commercial storefronts near the river. Sartell wants to keep the focus on the Mississippi River, showcasing the river’s history and making available active seasonal recreation and trail opportunities for area residents.

Archambeau acknowledged there is a lot of work to do before developers consider building on the site. She noted it is likely the city of Sartell would make a state bonding request to help fund needed site infrastructure and preparation work.

She promised to keep CMBA members engaged as the former paper mill site redevelopment vision moves into clearer focus.