Just east of the intersection of Jackson Street and Arlington Avenue, state officials once envisioned the former Bix produce building as a back-up morgue of sorts — a holding facility for up to 5,000 bodies of the victims of the COVID pandemic. Neighbors raised concern about ghosts and evil spirits, and city leaders offered their own objections.
In any event, the planned use never materialized, and the St. Paul Port Authority now wants the building back for future development.
The state purchased the refrigerated warehouse at 1415 L’Orient St. and the five acres of land it sits on from the Port Authority last year for nearly $5.48 million. Under pressure from St. Paul and Ramsey County officials opposed to the idea of warehousing bodies there, the state used the site instead as storage for personal protective equipment. On Tuesday, the board of the Port Authority will meet to vote on whether to purchase the site — which now sits vacant — back from the state for $5.65 million, the property’s current appraised value and the purchase amount required under state statute.
The goal, according to board documents, is to flip the former Bix building as quickly as possible, with the Port Authority looking to secure a letter of intent from a qualified buyer before the end of November. The Port Authority would then finalize the purchase with the state, with a closing scheduled on or around Dec. 1.
The last two major transactions within Port Authority business centers resulted in private storage facilities, which generated little to no employment. Port Authority officials said a produce company, on the other hand, could employ as many as 75 to 100 workers.
“The idea is to find a buyer who will bring jobs to the city of St. Paul,” said Andrea Novak, a marketing manager with the Port Authority. “There is no specific buyer in the wings. We will market this aggressively.”