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ST. PAUL, MN-Neither floods nor the state Legislature could keep construction from starting on one of the most ambitious residential projects in city history. Last spring, development of one of the largest housing projects in city history had to wait until the floodwaters of the Mississippi River subsided.

The Upper Landing, the $160-million-plus multi-use project on the north bank of Mississippi River, was submerged in water as the river recently crested at more than 23feet, 10 feet higher than flood stage.

Centex, the Dallas-based developer, showed off designs on how its project will handle a 500-year flood. The measures include a levee and raising the elevation of the ground. The project includes from 580 to 600 units of housing and 23,000 sf of commercial space.

Then, the state Legislature overhauled its property tax system, and in an unintended consequence, made tax increment financing more difficult by cutting into the taxes available to pay off the tax increment bonds.

Through a tax increment financing district, which had been expected to the generate $32 million, the city will help build parking that will provide two spaces per unit, or about 1,320 slots.

But it is a little easier to adjust residential projects than office projects — for instance, prices can be adjusted upward to reflect the higher costs of the project, says Brian Sweeney, planning and economic development director for the city of St. Paul.

Finally, Centex is well into an $11-million cleanup of the site, part of which will be paid for by state agencies. The site, which will also have to be raised to 18 inches above the 500-year flood plain, once housed a scrap yard and a grain facility.

Preparing the site, including clean up, soil remediation and building the street and sewerinfrastructure.

Centex is planning to build up to 100 units of affordable housing — some of them, at least, through the non-profit group CommonBond Communities to build rental units for low- and moderate-income families on 2 acres of the 21-acre site.

The project, which is close to the new Science Museum in Downtown St. Paul, will also include public parks, a regional trail and a public plaza. The project is proposed for an area along the Mississippi River bounded by Chestnut, the High Bridge and the newShepherd Road.

About half of the units will be rental, with rents ranging from $800 to $2,500 a month, and other half will be condos, ranging in price from $200,000 up to $600,000.

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