ST. PAUL — Plans to develop a new Minnesota National Guard armory in the south central part of the state are underway, with a design team for the project actively being sought as of this week.

The $17.2 million project will replace a structure more than 100 years old. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in December 2022.

Maj. Adam Riedel, of the Guard's Facilities Management Office, said the armory "will be a little over 54,000 square feet when it's complete."

The Guard has been eyeing the development of a new armory — or readiness center, in military parlance — in New Ulm since 2014. A new field maintenance shop separate from the armory was also proposed at that time, and is slated to begin construction this spring.

Both developments are the result of a standard review of Guard facilities, according to Riedel.

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Designing the new armory is expected to take from June of this year until next summer. Bids for the project's construction phase will be accepted starting that October, according to its request for proposal.

Already the Guard has several ideas for what the new armory will include: one floor of office space, a large assembly hall, a commercial kitchen, a gym with a locker room and, of course, storage space for arms and other military equipment. Solar power systems, onsite stormwater retention and geothermal heating systems are also planned.

Seventy-five percent of funds for the project will come from the federal government, the remainder to be made up with state dollars. The Guard has acquired approximately 30 acres of undeveloped land to site the armory on just west of New Ulm nearby where U.S. Route 14 passes.

When the new armory is complete and the Guard sets up shop there, Riedel said, the current one will be offered at a "fair market value" to local government entities before it is put up for sale on the open market. The Guard could not immediately say what the building would be worth.

The fortress-like armory in downtown New Ulm was constructed in 1914 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. City Manager Chris Dalton said Friday, Feb. 12, that it's possible the city could buy the building, but that there are no firm plans to do so at the moment.

The field maintenance shop the Guard is also in the process of replacing, he said, might be of more interest to the city, as it could hypothetically be repurposed for municipal vehicle storage.

"It’s a little more conducive to what we as city would need," Dalton said.

The current armory might make for an appealing private development project, according to Dalton, given its proximity to the downtown area.

Contact Matthew Guerry at mguerry@forumcomm.com or 651-321-4314