Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

After six years vacant, is 694 N. Snelling finally getting fixed?

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

The owners of a longtime Midway nuisance property have until early December to get the building rehabilitated. On July 25 the St. Paul City Council gave the building owner more time to get the work done at 694 N. Snelling Ave., allowing a standard 180-day compliance period. Such a period is allowed if a property owner can show the financial ability to repair a building and submit detailed timeline and construction documents.

Neighborhood residents have long complained about the dilapidated condition of the building, which has been vacant and in a state of disrepair for years. It housed a restaurant most recently but has been vacant since 2012, according to city officials.

Ramsey County taxation has placed an estimated market value of $254,800 on the land and $317,900 on the building.

Photo right: Hamline Midway Coalition Executive Director Michael Jon Olson said 694 N. Snelling Ave. is the “number one concern” along the Snelling Ave. commercial corridor. Building owners must improve by Dec. or face further action from the City of St. Paul. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

City records show that there have been 17 summary abatement notices since 2012. There have been six work orders issued for problems including boarding and securing of the building, snow and ice removal, and removal of graffiti and garbage.

The City Council action originally was for the building to be rehabilitated or removed within 15 days after the July 25 council hearing. But after a legislative hearing in late June, it was recommended that owners Nam M. Ho and Le M. Ho and new contractor Jim Di Chen, Chen Consulting, get more time to complete work on the building.

The building is a one-story brick commercial building on a lot of 14,375 square feet. It has been vacant since August 2012 and was most recently inspected by city officials in April 2018. Its property taxes are current, and it is a registered vacant building.

City officials estimate it would cost more than $125,000 to repair and about $40,000 to knock down.

After a long list of building deficiencies was posted, an “order to abate nuisance building” was posted Apr. 12, with a compliance date of May 12, 2018. A $5,000 performance deposit was posted in May. But as of the June legislative hearing, the building was still in a nuisance condition.

During the legislative hearing, city officials outlined the plans for building rehabilitation. A building permit request had been submitted by then and was under review. The permit showed work of $131,000, with an active plumbing permit ($20,000) and an active electrical permit ($24,000).

Nam L. Ho explained at the legislative hearing that there were problems with the owners’ previous contractor, he was paid $40,000 yet didn’t do any work. The current contractor is working with the city to get permits and a work plan squared away. Ho said there is more than $250,000 earmarked for the work.

Chen said the work could be done this fall.

Hamline Midway Coalition Executive Director Michael Jon Olson testified at the legislative hearing. He noted that in the six years that the building has been vacant, it has deteriorated into worse and worse condition. He said its condition is not only a significant concern for the district council but for many neighborhood residents.

Olson said N. Snelling Ave. has had an increasing number of vacancies, which is alarming to the district council and neighborhood. “Any time you have a building falling into disrepair in a commercial corridor, it affects the entire commercial corridor.” Hamline Midway Coalition is asking that the city not let the project linger. He called 694 N. Snelling Ave. the “number one concern” along the corridor.

A check along North Snelling between University and Hewitt avenues shows more than half a dozen vacancies, including a large storefront recently vacated by Hamline University at the northeast corner of Snelling and Minnehaha avenues, and a former fan and lighting shop at 678 N. Snelling Ave. The old fan and lighting shop has an alcove that has filled up with trash as people seek shelter there. Many area residents and business owners are hoping for redevelopment when the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium opens next year.

The building owners of 694 N. Snelling had to meet several conditions to get the 180-day extension, including providing a revised work plan or sworn constriction statement with timelines to complete building rehabilitation, financial documents such as a line of credit, construction loan or personal bank account and an affidavit indicating the dedication of at least $156,000 to be used for the project.

The City Council action means that work on the building can proceed. After Dec. 6, the City Council will receive a report from Marcia Moermond, the city’s legislative hearing office, with findings on the status of the nuisance abatement.

The issue returns to the legislative hearing’s agenda Dec. 11. The building owners, interested parties, and Department of Safety and Inspection staff will present information on the current building conditions and progress toward abatement of the dangerous/nuisance conditions.

Findings go back to the city council Dec. 19. If there isn’t progress by then, the city can order that the building be torn down.

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