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Developers of old jail in St. Paul back out

The developer in charge of turning the old jail in downtown St. Paul into prime $10 million real estate is backing down, and using the economy as his reason, the Pioneer Press reported.

Opus Northwest told Ramsey County officials it was stepping down from its exclusive rights to sell several parcels of county-owned land along Kellogg Boulevard overlooking the Mississippi River, said Tim Murnane, Opus' point person on the project.

The building site is housing about 600 county workers in the shuttered Ramsey County Jail and the former West Publishing building. Opus had plans to take down the structures and build high-rises with residential condos and offices.

"Our plan was really dependent on securing an anchor tenant, and obviously, in this economy, that proved to be impossible," Murnane said.

Opus will still market the site in the mean time, but the current contrat to purchase it from Ramsey County meant that to independently sell it, Opus would need to pay nearly $900,000 this month, and Murnane said that didn't make sense, given the economy.

"We still think it's a great site," he said.