Arden Hills businessman will lead TCAAP development board


Matt Hudson photos Northern Soda co-founder Jesse Hopkins stands in the company’s tasting room. He and three others founded the Arden Hills-based craft soda pop business in the summer of 2018 to create their own flavors based on classic recipes.

A businessman specializing in real estate will lead the Joint Development Authority, which is tasked with coordinating a massive north metro development but recently cancelled meetings due to disagreements.

The Arden Hills City Council voted during a special meeting on Dec. 17 to appoint Brian Holmes as chair of the JDA. The term for Holmes, an Arden Hills resident, runs through 2020.

The JDA governs the combined efforts of Ramsey County and Arden Hills to develop the former site of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, a 427-acre plot that required pollution cleanup at the county’s expense. The development, dubbed Rice Creek Commons, could be a residential boon for Arden Hills.

“It’s the largest opportunity that Arden Hills is going to have for development that I can see ever going forward,” Holmes said in a Dec. 18 interview. “I think that there’s a lot of great aspects to the land, the location and the community.”

Holmes, no relation to Arden Hills council member Fran Holmes, works as the assistant vice president of real estate and facilities for Prime Therapeutics, a pharmacy benefits management company. This fall, the company began moving into a massive new office space in Eagan, an effort he led.

Holmes said that Prime has no interest in the TCAAP development but added that his corporate real estate experience should serve him well as JDA chair.

“I’ve been able to align people on common objectives,” he said. “My goal and some of my success is attributed to focusing on common goals and deriving win-win solutions from there.”

Solutions could be hard to come by for the JDA. Recent meetings of the governing body were cancelled amid disputes between Arden Hills and Ramsey County over the city’s financial contribution to the project, development fees, housing density and other issues. 

Tensions came to a head in early November. The county pared back the amount of resources devoted to the effort, and it’s unclear when the next meeting will take place.

A spokeswoman for Ramsey County declined to comment. The offices of Ramsey County commissioners Blake Huffman and Rafael Ortega, who sit on the JDA, didn’t return requests for comment.

For his part, Holmes avoided comment on specific challenges within the JDA, saying that he’s been following the development “from afar.” He said that his success in the past has been in finding common goals, and that’s what he hopes to start with as chair of the JDA.

“In the short term, I want to hear directly from those involved and what their focuses and priorities are,” he said. “I can’t at this point speak to any specifics. I haven’t really sat down and met with anyone formally.”

With its master developer, Alatus, LLC, the Rice Creek Commons project is envisioned as three new residential neighborhoods with adjoining commercial and mixed-use space in north Arden Hills. One estimate said that the city of 10,000 could grow by 40 percent with the completed development.

The JDA consists of five members. The city and county each send two elected officials to the board, and Arden Hills appoints a non-elected resident to be chair.

Currently, Huffman and Ortega represent the county on the JDA. Arden Hills Mayor David Grant and city council member Dave McClung represent the city.

Jonathan Wicklund, formerly an Arden Hills council member, preceded Holmes as JDA chair.

 

–Matt Hudson can be reached at mhudson@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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