Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant

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Rice Creek Commons
Rice Creek Commons groundbreaking ceremony
Headstamp of a .50 caliber bullet casing, made by the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant in 1944 and recovered from the Sahuarita Bombing and Gunnery Range in 2008
Fifty round package of .45 ball ammunition from 1948

The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant is an inactive United States Army ammunition plant located in the City of Arden Hills in Ramsey County, Minnesota. The 2300-acre site is bounded by County Road I to the north, I-35W to the west, U.S. Route 10 to the southwest, County Highway 96 to the south, and Lexington Avenue to the east.

The site was added to the National Priorities List as a Superfund site on September 8, 1983.[1] The soil surrounding the plant was contaminated with base neutral acids, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, cyanide, and explosives.[2] The site originally had 255 buildings across 2,382 acres (9.64 km2).[3][2]

Ramsey County purchased a 427-acre parcel of the TCAAP site from the U.S. government in April 2013[3][4] and is developing it as Rice Creek Commons. Demolition and environmental cleanup to meet residential standards was completed in November 2015.[5] According to Ramsey County, crews removed and appropriately disposed of 100,000 tons of contaminated soil. Additionally, crews removed and recycled more than 400,000 tons of concrete and asphalt – equivalent to the weight of four average passenger cruise ships. More than 90% of the materials removed from the site were recycled or reused in new roadways at the site and other areas of the Twin Cities. Private development is scheduled to begin in 2016 and will include a mix of residential, commercial, light industrial and other uses.


Initially, the plant was known as the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant. It was renamed the Twin Cities Arsenal in 1946 and finally, in 1963, the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP).[6]

TCAAP was built as part of the government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) war materials production program established by the War Department during World War II. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area emerged as a potential GOCO candidate primarily on the basis of labor supply. TCAAP was one of six GOCO plants built to produce small arms ammunition during World War II, and was operated by the Federal Cartridge Corporation under contract to the War Department.[7]

Construction of the plant began in August 1941. Each of the three main munitions facilities had five production lines, and the entire plant had a total of 35 lines. The workforce reached its peak in July 1943 when employment totaled about 26,000 people, more than half of whom were women.

The plant produced .30, .50 and .45 caliber ammunition. Production of small arms ammunition began on March 9, 1942, and the plant remained in production for 42 months. Between 1942 and 1945, TCAAP produced all five main small arms types: ball, armor-piercing, tracer, incendiary and blanks.

In 1944, the plant opened an important small arms ammunition reclamation center. The design of the .30 and .50 caliber cartridge-disassembly machines by TCAAP personnel in the late 1940s represented a significant technological advance in small arms salvage technology. Development in ammunition salvage began during World War II and continued at the facility during the Cold War period.

After Victory over Japan Day, TCAAP was placed in reserve status. The facility was operated by the US Army from 1946 to 1950, when the installation was brought back into production to manufacture small arms and artillery ammunition for the Korean War. The plant remained in service until 1957, when it was again closed. In 1965, during the Vietnam War, the plant was re-opened to manufacture new types of small arms ammunition. It was on standby status from 1976 through 2002.

In 2002, more than 600 acres (2.4 km2) were declared "in excess" by the United States Army, though Alliant Techsystems continued to manufacture munitions there as recently as 2005.


After a bid to make TCAAP the new home for the Minnesota Vikings failed, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners purchased the property with a vision to create economic prosperity, put the vacant land back on the tax rolls as a productive part of the community, create well-paying jobs, and clean up one of the largest polluted sites in the state for future generations. The future development was named Rice Creek Commons in August 2014.[8] The 427-acre parcel is being redeveloped in conjunction with the City of Arden Hills through a joint powers agreement.[9]

Under terms of the purchase agreement, Ramsey County will pay the federal government $4.9 million for the property and agree to spend $22.6 million to clean up remaining pollution. In April 2013, the county executed a competitively bid contract with Carl Bolander & Sons of St. Paul for the demolition of all structures on site, and the full remediation of the site to residential soil values.[10] The county is financing the deal with $21.4 million in bonding, a $6 million transfer from its solid waste fund, and $2 million in contingency funds. These dollars will be replenished through the sale of land for redevelopment.

The plan for these 427 acres, cleaned up and revitalized from their prior industrial use, is to provide homes and jobs to hundreds of families and professionals, and to be a catalyst for economic development across the region. [11]

Master plan 2013[edit]

Beginning in May 2013, the City of Arden Hills and design firms Kimley-Horn and Cuningham Group began collaborating to create a draft master plan, laying out a vision for the site. The Arden Hills City Council previewed the draft master plan in December 2013, followed by several public open houses that encouraged public feedback in 2014.

Overwhelmingly, the public emphasized the importance of creating identifiable neighborhoods, balanced green space, and walkable communities. According to the draft master plan, the northernmost section of the site, known as the “thumb,” will be home to commercial development, while the larger southern portion will feature mixed-use development that includes residential, commercial, office and retail.

The City of Arden Hills and Ramsey County must both approve a final master plan. The Joint Development Authority will then implement the master plan through redevelopment activities on the site.

Joint Development Authority Board[edit]

Through a joint powers agreement, the City of Arden Hills and Ramsey County have created a Joint Development Authority Board (JDA) that oversees efforts to clean up and redevelop the Rice Creek Commons site. The JDA is responsible for implementing the city- and county-approved master plan, issuing requests for proposals, and negotiating development agreements with private developers. The JDA is made up of two county commissioners, two city council members, and a non-elected city appointee. Current members include:

  • David Sand, city appointee (chair)
  • David Grant, Arden Hills Mayor
  • Brenda Holden, Arden Hills Council Member
  • Blake Huffman, Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Rafael Ortega, Ramsey County Commissioner

In February 2016, the Joint Development Authority announced a solicitation for a master developer to guide the overall residential and commercial development of the Rice Creek Commons site.[12] In conjunction with the solicitation for a master developer, Ramsey County produced a video[13] highlighting development opportunities.

Sustainable energy development[edit]

In April 2015, the Joint Development Authority adopted an Energy Integration Resiliency Framework for Rice Creek Commons. The framework sets a vision to create the largest net-zero energy redevelopment in the state, proposing an on-site 40-acre solar installation and all-electric residential neighborhoods designed to deliver long-term energy cost savings.[14]

The proposed 40-acre solar installation would generate 8 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power all homes and businesses built at Rice Creek Commons. Estimates show the installation has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1,432 cars each year. Federal tax credits that help offset the cost of the solar installation are available through 2016.

All-electric neighborhoods would be made possible by energy generated from ongoing water treatment at the Rice Creek Commons site. Instead of a traditional HVAC system, homes would be heated and cooled by thermal energy captured from groundwater that is pumped through an on-site treatment process. This energy would be enough to meet the needs of residential developments at Rice Creek Commons.

Ramsey County plans to pursue public-private partnerships to finance potential projects outlined in the framework. An RFP for the solar installation is expected to be released in the near future, with tentative plans for construction to be completed in 2016. Developments at Rice Creek Commons powered by the installation are expected the following year.

Transportation infrastructure plans[edit]

Rice Creek Commons will be connected to the external road network in three locations: County Road I, County Road H, and Highway 96. A roundabout at County Road H will organize the on- and off-ramps, the spine road, and an access road to the thumb. An additional road from the northeast corner of the Rice Creek Commons site to County Road I is also being considered. Streets within Rice Creek Commons will include a combination of Municipal State Aid collector roads and local roads built by private developers.

Ramsey County is in the process of updating the highway and freeway connections surrounding Rice Creek Commons to provide adequate and safe access to the site. Specifically, the improvement project includes a new bridge with pedestrian trails at I-35W and Highway 96, and interior access roads and an interchange at Highway 96. This project will be completed during 2015 and is estimated to cost $12.5 million. Ramsey County was awarded state capital investment bonds in 2014 to complete this project. This funding will be combined with State Trunk Highway funds and local funds (County State Aid Highway (CSAH), County Turnback, and city funds) to fully fund the planned improvements.

Ramsey County is replacing the bridge at the I-35W/County Road H interchange. This project will be completed in 2016 and is estimated to cost $21.5 million. Ramsey County was awarded state capital investment bonds in 2014 to complete this project.[15] This funding will be combined with state trunk highway funds and local funds (County State Aid Highway (CSAH), County Turnback, and city funds) to fully fund the planned improvements.

A major county road, commonly referred to as the spine road, will connect Highway 96 to County Road H through the Rice Creek Commons site. The road will provide primary access to residential neighborhoods and commercial areas throughout the site.

Ramsey County and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce are actively working with Metro Transit to explore the feasibility[16] of extending the A-Line bus rapid transit[17] to the Rice Creek Commons site. The A-Line is under construction and is expected to be completed by late 2015. The line will connect the Twin Cities’ two light rail lines, running from the 46th Street Station on the Blue Line in Minneapolis along Ford Parkway and Snelling Avenue to Rosedale Mall. Extending the line to Rice Creek Commons would add approximately 10 stations to the line and provide transit opportunities for thousands of residents, students, and businesses. The extension would connect the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and Bethel University, as well as major employers, including Land O'Lakes, Inc. and Boston Scientific, to the broader public transportation system.

School interest[edit]

Ramsey County is working with the Mounds View Public Schools to develop a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) curriculum on topics throughout the demolition, cleanup, and redevelopment process at Rice Creek Commons. 7th-grade students at Chippewa Middle School in North Oaks learn firsthand how experts are able to clean and clear the site, and try their hands at community development planning.[18] High school students are testing water onsite to determine how development affects a wetland.[citation needed]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ "Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant Superfund site progress profile". EPA. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  2. ^ a b "Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site description". EPA. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  3. ^ a b "Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant". United States Army Plants. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  4. ^ "TCAAP Superfund site now belongs to Ramsey County". Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  5. ^ "Cleanup finished at former TCAAP site". Pioneer Press. 14 November 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-14. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "TCAAP gets a marketable new moniker". Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  9. ^ "Joint Powers Agreement for the Redevelopment of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant Superfund site progress profile". EPA. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  12. ^ "Ramsey County seeks Rice Creek Commons master developer". Sun Focus. Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  13. ^ "Welcome to Rice Creek Commons". Ramsey County. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  14. ^ "Plan could make Arden Hills development energy self-sufficient". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2015-04-07. 
  15. ^ "At TCAAP site, focus now moves to road work". Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  16. ^ "St. Paul chamber still eyeing A Line extension". Finance & Commerce. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  17. ^ "The A Line: Snelling Bus Rapid Transit (BRT_". Metro Transit. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  18. ^ "Chippewa Middle School students impact major development project". KARE11. 18 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 

External Links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°06′N 93°10′W / 45.100°N 93.167°W / 45.100; -93.167