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ST.PAUL, MN-The city expects to sign a deal this week to buy one of the key blocks in Downtown in order to clear the way for new development that could include a hotel and — reportedly — a headquarters building for Minnesota Public Radio, the largest local public radio station in the country. The city would pay more than $2.5 million for the old Wabasha Court building and its site at Sixth and Wabasha streets.

“The very least we would like to do is raze that building,” says Brian Sweeney, the city’s director of planning and economic development.

Although it is unclear what development would follow on the site at this point, Sweeney said he would like to see the city begin construction on a parking complex. He has talked to the owners of the nearby Hamm Building about linking an underground portion of the ramp to the Hamm Building’s basement, which would be converted to parking.

The 54,000-sf building has been largely vacant over the last several years The owners of the site, Sherman Rutzick and Rollie Stinski, have signed a non-bonding letter of intent to sell it.

Sweeney calls it one of the more blighted properties near the Central Business District -– and one deserving of attention. That section of Wabasha Street is near the Dayton’s (soon to be called Marshall Field’s) department store and Lawson Commons, home to Lawson Software.

If the agreement does not produce a sale, city officials say they may pursue the site through condemnation proceedings.

Although Minnesota Public Radio, which has outgrown its building in Downtown St. Paul, has confirmed it is looking at moving, officials there decline to talk about specific sites.

Meanwhile, among the hotel chains interested in the block is Courtyard by Marriott. Housing developers are also looking at the site.

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