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No solar garden for former Central Research site


A solar garden will not be planted at the former Central Research Laboratory property.

City Council moved Monday to decline a lease and solar easement with Novel Energy Solutions for the city-owned property at the southwest corner of Highways 19 and 61.The proposed lease would have spanned 25 years on six acres with an easement that would prohibit any obstruction of sunlight over the duration of the lease.

City Engineering Director Ron Rosenthal recommended against the lease and easement.

“They don’t want buildings to cast shadow on the solar garden,” he said. “That limits somewhat what can happen to the east side of the property.”  

Representatives from the St. Paul Port Authority, whom Red Wing Port contracted for economic development consulting and real estate brokerage services in June, also spoke against the lease at the meeting.

Monte Hilleman, senior vice president of real estate redevelopment with St. Paul Port, said the property’s unique assets might be better suited for a different purpose.

“(St. Paul Port) are big fans of solar — we’re actually putting a 40 kilowatt array on a 200,000-square-foot building as we speak,” he said. “However, large, flat buildable chunks of property for jobs and tax base are rare. Those of us that live in the world of economic deal making and consider ourselves economic growth nerds look at properties like this and get excited.”

According to staff recommendations, the city will continue to work with MN Community Solar to find an alternate location for the proposed solar garden.

The council tentatively advanced the CRL property last year.