The corner of Annapolis and Robert Street in 2004 and 2020.

Then & Now: North Gateway

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It’s been a long journey for the southwest corner of Robert Street and Annapolis in West St. Paul. The block has been slated for redevelopment for a while. It’s finally happening with the North Gateway apartment proposal from Dakota County.

Here’s a look at the corner in about 2004:

West St. Paul welcome sign at the corner of Robert and Annapolis in about 2004 (photo by Carolyn Swiszcz).
(Photo credit: Carolyn Swiszcz)

Here’s what the corner looks like in 2020:

West St. Paul welcome sign at the corner of Annapolis and Robert in 2020.

And here’s what the corner could look like in the future:

Artist rendering of the completed North Gateway apartments.

Future Plans

A 2014 study determined that residential housing would be a better fit for the site than retail. The Dakota County Community Development Authority (CDA) opted to redevelop the site themselves in order to create more affordable housing. Phase one will include a 54-unit, three-story building of workforce housing. Once they can see the response to the first building, there are plans for a second.

After some back and forth, this project got a thumb’s up from the city’s Economic Development Authority in March, then bypassed the Planning Commission due to COVID-19 and was approved by the City Council. During the groundbreaking ceremony, the project’s history was acknowledged.

A Little History

In the early 2000s, the CDA began eyeing property along this block for redevelopment. The block used to include a barbershop, tattoo parlor, and the third-generation Langula’s Hardware—one of the city’s oldest businesses. Emil and Freda Langula started the store back in 1914, and their grandson Gary Langula and his wife Mary sold to the CDA in 2010. Some bricks from Langula’s Hardware will be incorporated into the new apartment building.

Langula’s Hardware in 2008 (Photo credit: Dakota County Historical Society)

“It was the typical old-fashioned hardware store where they’d not only have what you wanted, but they’d tell you how to use it,” former West St. Paul City Council Member Ed Iago said in a 2010 Pioneer Press article. “And if you took a problem down there, they’d tell you how to solve it.”

With the Menard’s expansion around 2006, Langula’s sales started suffering. Then Lowe’s came in 2007. The Suburban Ace Hardware six blocks south of Langula’s also closed in 2011.

“I’m half of what I was last year as far as gross profit goes, and last year was half of what it was the year before,” Gary said in 2010. “So the heck with it.”

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