ST. PAUL-Minnesota Public Radio said Thursday it plans to expand its campus in downtown St. Paul by buying a nearby building and joining it to its present headquarters.The expansion will mean more than twice the present space for MPR offices and broadcast facilities.

MPR, one of the nation’s largest public radio networks, will pay $7.9 million to buy the 480 Cedar St. building from the Public Housing Agency of St. Paul. The public housing building has 68,000 sf and is just north across Ninth Street from the rear of MPR’s current 45,000-sf headquarters building, located at Seventh and Cedar streets.MPR already leases one-and-a-half floors of the 480 Cedar building to ease overcrowding in its headquarters facility. It also leases a full floor of space in the nearby US Bancorp Piper Jaffray Building.

In addition, MPR will pay $1 to the City of St. Paul for the vacant triangle of land on the west side of Cedar Street directly opposite the MPR Building, with the promise it will transform it into a significant public attraction.

Development and construction connecting the 480 Cedar Building with the current MPR Building is targeted for completion by 2005, and will add about 37,000 sf to the complex. MPR’s operations will be housed in about 150,000 sf of office and production space that is close to both the Capitol and St. Paul’s revitalized Wabasha Street business district.The new complex will provide a creative environment for MPR’s planned expansion in programming and content. MPR expects to show a net increase of at least 100 new jobs in downtown St. Paul over the next 10-15 years, while preserving its existing base of 250 St. Paul employees.The announcement culminates a two-year site and architectural study process during which MPR considered a number of possible headquarters solutions in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. “We considered many solutions, and the best one turned out to be right at home,” said Bill Kling, President of MPR. He adds that “MPR has been landlocked at 7th and Cedar and has long looked for space where we can create and broadcast the greater depth of information and cultural programming that we are beginning to develop.”

To finance the 480 Cedar Building purchase, MPR will receive a $3.3 million forgivable loan over three years from the City of St. Paul. (It will not have to pay back the loan if it maintains its current work force of 250 and adds 100 more jobs in St. Paul over the next 15 years.) The radio network is also getting grants from four foundations: the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, the Mardag Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation and the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation. MPR is working on plans for a capital fund drive to cover the cost of development and construction that will link the two buildings together and connect them to a future-oriented multimedia center.

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