Economic Impact Project Winner: River of Goods/Terrybear Urns & Memorials

Project Location:  St. Paul

Project Summary

Terrybear Urns and Memorials and River of Goods partnered with the Saint Paul Port Authority to turn a blighted nightclub/bowling alley built on top of an old city dump into a successful business headquarters.  The project not only creates jobs and increases the tax base – twin goals of the Port Authority – but also blends into the neighborhood and creates a community space.

The project was successful because of the many public and private partners who came together to make it so. For a project to successfully integrate into a neighborhood, residents must be involved from conception through execution. This project had the perfect balance of community input and ideas with business and market reality and acumen.

The Port Authority’s mission is to create quality job opportunities, expand the tax base and advance sustainable development. We do this through the acquisition of brownfield sites in areas where jobs are needed the most, and where the private market would likely not make the investment if there wasn’t a public incentive to do so.

The Port Authority purchased this property from Minnehaha Lanes, a bowling alley in bankruptcy and whose substandard building sat atop an old city dump. The Port Authority cobbled together funds from a variety of funding sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and the Metropolitan Council to complete the demolition and remediation.

Soils were excavated to depths of 12 feet in some areas to clear out the old dump materials. The beneficial re-use of dredge materials from the Mississippi River was a part of the sustainable remediation at this location. Next Generation stormwater management solutions, including the installation of three rain gardens to collect stormwater in the newly constructed parking lot, also were implemented.

The Port Authority marketed the site to businesses that would create at least one job per 1,000 square feet of building, and was pleased to negotiate a deal with Terrybear Urns and Memorials/River of Goods. The companies wanted a consolidated headquarters for their growing wholesale design, import, and Internet distribution businesses. Terry and Margie Commerford, the owners of these businesses, wanted to move to a neighborhood where they could create a special place, not only for their employees, but also for the surrounding community. The Commerfords had a very thoughtful approach to design of the building and the grounds. The businesses worked with a neighborhood organization called Frogtown Farms to install community gardens in underutilized green space.

Terry Commerford, who opened his business in 1983, said he looked at two existing buildings before he turned to the Frogtown site. He said he was attracted to the area because he wanted his business to be in an urban environment where his employees live.  In some developments there is a conflict over jobs or park space and green space; but when you have business owners like the Commerfords move into the neighborhood, it doesn’t have to be an either or: Both jobs and community space amenities coexist.

Project Submitted by:  St. Paul Port Authority 

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