More businesses set to fill ‘old 3M site’

submitted photo • Vomela will be building a roughly 300,000-square-foot building on the vacant lot near the corner of Arcade Street and Minnehaha Avenue. The company does “large format printing,” meaning it prints things like signs for retail stores or decals for fleet vehicles.

submitted photo • Yeadon will be building a football field-sized structure on the vacant lot at Forest and East Seventh streets. The company, which currently works out of Minneapolis, constructs the materials used in large dome structures, like the athletic complex at Concordia University near Interstate 94 in St. Paul.

submitted photo • OPUS, a Minnetonka-based developer, will be constructing an 86,000-square-foot industrial-use building on a lot off Wells Street across from Viking Electric. The company will lease the building to an unspecified company, which will be required to create 86 jobs over the next 10 years.

Beacon Bluff, also known as the “old 3M site” to most East Siders, is going to look a lot different by the end of the year. 

The St. Paul Port Authority, which currently owns the vacant land, has lined up businesses and developers to build on three parcels, some of the last remaining large sites.  

The new, incoming businesses shared their plans with the Dayton’s Bluff and the Payne-Phalen community councils during their monthly meetings on May 21 and 22. 


Big printing

One of the largest businesses set to build at Beacon Bluff is St. Paul-based Vomela. 

Vomela is a printing company, but not in the traditional paper sense. The company does “large format printing,” meaning it prints and manufactures large signage, including aisle signs at retail stores, decals for fleet vehicles for companies like UPS, and signage for companies going to trade shows. 

Paul Knapp, vice president of Vomela, said during the May 21 Dayton’s Bluff Community Council meeting that the company, which has operations across the country, was looking to consolidate all of its Twin Cities locations into one spot and Beacon Bluff had the space to do it. Currently the company has locations on the West Side flats in St. Paul near the the airport and a location in Maplewood. 

Monte Hilleman, vice president of real estate development for the St. Paul Port Authority, said Beacon Bluff is the largest, shovel-ready site in St. Paul and that the building Vomela will be constructing may be the largest building constructed in St. Paul since the 1960s. 

Vomela will be constructing a nearly 300,000-square-foot facility on a 12-acre lot at the corner of Minnehaha Avenue and Arcade Street. 

As part of its contract with the Port Authority, Vomela will be required to add 50 jobs over the next 10 years, which will have an average pay rate of $17 to $18 an hour and include a competitive benefits package. Hilleman said during the meeting he believes Vomela will exceed that job growth rate. 

The company will have about 180 employees working at the site when it opens, which is estimated to be April 2019. The company plans to start construction in July. 

“We felt, in terms of the Port Authority’s work, that they are exactly the type of business with career ladders, pathways to success and also with low barriers to entry for production work,” said Hilleman.

He added that Dayton’s Bluff had a unique opportunity to attract a company like this.  

“[This is] a great opportunity to retain a St. Paul company. If we didn’t have [these] 12 acres of land ready to go for them in your neighborhood they would be either out of the state or looking in Lakeville, Eagan, Rogers, somewhere out there a ways, to find this big of a chunk of real estate,” Hilleman said.


Second chances

Another business lined up is a company called Yeadon, which originated in Canada and moved to Minneapolis. 

It creates the material used for air dome facilities. Some of its better-known local structures include the athletic complex at Concordia University off Hamline Avenue near Interstate 94 and the athletic complex in West St. Paul. 

The company plans to construct a football field-sized building with a dome roof on the 3.22-acre lot on the corner of East Seventh and Forest streets. It will be 105 feet wide, 350 feet long and 42 feet high, and be mostly empty inside. 

Yeadon CEO Matt Mejia explained that when constructing such domes, it’s important to have a lot of clear space free of columns and other structures. 

“When we make these structures it’s like making very large bed sheets that weigh several thousand pounds so we can’t have columns or barriers in the way,” he said.

Mejia added that the dome roof on the facility will be grey in the hopes that it will blend into the sky more and not stand out so much to nearby residents. 

Similar to Vomela, Yeadon will be required, per its contract with the Port Authority, to create 80 jobs over the next ten years. Mejia said the company will start with 50 employees when it opens at Beacon Bluff. 

Mejia and Hilleman are working to finalize contracts by August and Mejia said he hopes to start construction soon after, with a plan to move the company into its new headquarters in March 2019. 

Hilleman said what most impressed him when he first started working with Yeadon is its unique hiring program.

Mejia explained that Yeadon does what is called “second-chance hiring.” The company will hire those who may have recently finished serving time in prison or those going through drug treatment programs. 

“They’re less likely to re-offend if they have a job,” Mejia said. He said while the company still screens potential employees to understand where they are coming from, he said he understands that finding a job after serving time is difficult and wants be able to help “give them a shot.”

He added the company also has a training program where as workers gain more experience, they have the ability to test though skills and raise their pay rate based off the skills they know, giving employees a chance to climb the ladder without the immediate need to go to school. 

“We think it’s a cool thing,” he said. 


Industrial space

During the Payne-Phalen Community Council meeting on May 22, Minnetonka-based developer OPUS, which is known for building apartments and business spaces around the Twin Cities, presented its plans for a building at Beacon Bluff

The company will be constructing an 86,000-square-foot industrial-use building at a site off Wells Street across from Viking Electric. 

Phil Cattanach, senior director of real estate for OPUS, said the company chose to develop industrial space because it’s seeing a demand. 

He said with the site’s proximity to the railroad, Phalen Boulevard and quick access to the freeway, it’s ideal for industrial work. 

Cattanach said OPUS is working with a company interested in the building, but that he can’t name it yet because contracts are still being worked out. 

Similar to Vomela and Yeadon, OPUS will be required to create 86 jobs over the next 10 years, meaning that whatever business ends up in the space will be required to meet that stipulation.

Cattanach said the plan is to start construction this summer and to have a company moved in and operating by the end of the year. 


Hiring locally

One of the top concerns brought by both community councils was whether each company will be making a point to hire locally. 

Hilleman said all three have connected with the East Side Employment xChange, a network of East Side nonprofits that provide employment and training services. 

“These guys want to hire locally, the East Side Employement xChange wants to provide the candidates, so all these companies will be plugging into that mix and we’re really excited about that,” Hilleman said. 

He added that having the network, rather than trying to work with each individual organization, helps companies hire more efficiently. 

For more information about the East Side Employment xChange, contact Merrick Community Services at 651-219-5555 or


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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