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With St. Paul Sears Store Closing, Residents & Politicians Wonder What Will Take Its Place

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Sears store in St. Paul will close its doors after more than half a century.

"As long as I've been here it's been here," said St. Paul resident Kathy Arionus.

The one in Ridgedale Mall is also closing, leaving only one left at Mall of America.

Related: Sears Got Its Start In Minneapolis, Grew To Be The World's Biggest Retailer

The Rice Street store sits in the shadow of the Minnesota State Capitol.

"I'm very, very upset. I've shopped here since I was a little girl. My mother brought me. My mother is 92 years old and I'm 70. I think this is terrible," said St. Paul resident Mary Ann Burns.

The Rice Street site is on 17 acres. Outside, the Minnesota Department of Administration leases 500 parking spaces from the building's owners. That lease is good until 2020. Inside, a privately-owned Drivers and Vehicle Services office is on the second floor. It too will move.

St. Paul Sears Closing
(credit: CBS)

Related: Amid Massive Debt & Plunging Sales, Sears Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Owners say they are looking for a location nearby to move to between December 1 and February 1.

Whatever ends up on the site, it will be limited to six stories so that the State Capitol Building stands out.

St. Paul's Ward One Councilperson Dai Thao says several groups have expressed interest in redeveloping the area. He believes whatever happens at the site should be a group effort.

"I think it should be a community process. I think that whoever is going to develop they will have to go through the district council, will meet with the neighbors," Thao said. "So let's co-own, let's co-create, let's co-invest in this neighborhood."

He would like to see mixed development with commercial space on the bottom and housing, to include affordable housing on upper floors. He hopes to build off the excitement of the city's new soccer stadium to the west of the Sears site.

"My goal and the vision for the ward is to develop both ends and kind of meet in the middle where Lexington is," Thao said. "We've been working hard on that."

Sears says it expects to close the stores by the end of the year.

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