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{ Development Roundup } June 2020

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

How will fires affect Midway Center ‘superblock’?
Development at the Midway Center “superblock” is moving toward a fall groundbreaking for new construction on the western part of the site. But how a devastating fire in the remaining part of Midway Center will affect redevelopment remains unclear.
Much of the remaining shopping center building along Pascal Street was extensively damaged by fire overnight May 28-29, as was Big Top Liquor. Big Top had relocated to the former Midway Perkins building along University Avenue. As of Monitor deadline plans for the shopping center hadn’t been announced. The western section was slated to eventually come down, but it was almost largely occupied.
Union Park District Council (UPDC) heard a development update at its May meeting from Bill McGuire, lead owner of the Minnesota United FC soccer team and lead partner in site redevelopment with RK Midway.
The developers are working with the St. Paul Port Authority to obtain $2 million in site cleanup grants from the state, Ramsey County and Metropolitan Council. The applications were submitted May 1. It’s anticipated that much pollution is from an old streetcar garage and Metro Transit bus barn and repair facility at the site.
The United Villages at Midway development’s towers would include 234 dwelling units over a 148,470-square-foot parking podium, with 15,780-square-feet of retail and coworking office spaces above the parking and below the towers. The parking is to be in one level underground. McGuire said that while changes are considered for tower placement, the design is largely as shown in April. Construction drawings are still in the works. Stadium designer Populous is project architect. The goal is to open the building in spring 2022.
The towers would be nine to 18 stories tall and would be adjacent to an “activated alley” of retail and live-work spaces, with a smaller 3 to 3.5-story structure with retail and small business/nonprofit incubator space. That building footprint is about 20,000 square feet. McGuire said one focus would be local food businesses.
One point McGuire made is that without parking spaces, investors will not consider the project. Parking and ways to promote more mass transit use were brought up district council members.
Other parts of the development are moving ahead, although a proposed movie theater may have to shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced crisis movie theaters everywhere face, said McGuire. It’s more likely a proposed hotel will eventually built as part of the development. That also may face delays.

17-story apartments,
YWCA replacement
Area projects, including housing at Fairview and University avenues and a replacement for the YWCA of St. Paul, are among four city submissions vying for development funds. The St. Paul City Council voted May 6 to seek Metropolitan Council and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) grants for the projects. Cities must apply for the funds with developers.
Two projects, including apartments planned for 1845 University Ave., are in line for Metropolitan Council Tax Base Revitalization Account (TBRA) dollars. Two 17-story apartment buildings are proposed by Minneapolis-based Reuter Walton Development. The buildings would go up on property owned by Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota. The project began community review in late 2019. Apartments planned are affordable housing, in a mix of unit sizes.
Reuther Walton is seeking $111,814 in TBRA funds and $654,080 from DEED. Both funding sources would assist with site cleanup. Part of the property was once a gas station.
Another request is from Keystone Community Services, which has locations in Merriam Park, the North End and West End. Keystone is also seeking pre-development funding of $100,000 from Metropolitan Council, for a site to be determined.
The YWCA request would replace the YWCA that has stood at Selby and Western avenues for many years, possibly with a mixed-use development. Awards are to be announced in the weeks ahead.

University-Raymond
development wins approval
Development of the former US Bank property at University and Raymond avenues is moving ahead. The St. Paul Planning Commission May 29 approved a needed variance and conditional use permit for 2383 University Ave.
The development company Kraus Anderson obtained approvals for the project. The project is already zoned for traditional neighborhoods 3 use so no zoning change is needed. The approvals are final unless an appeal is filed with the St. Paul City Council within 10 days.
The developers will tear down the longtime Midway Bank and its drive-through lanes. Parking lots are also part of the development sire. The lots and bank will be replaced by a six-story building. The building will have 222 dwelling units, 2,200 square feet of first-floor commercial space and amenity spaces for tenants. Three of the first-floor dwelling spaces will be live/work units.
The building will have frontage along University, Raymond and Charles avenues. It will be V-shaped with a courtyard. Its design plans got a nod of approval May 18 from the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. The site is in the Raymond-University Commercial Historic District.
The conditional use permit is needed for a 66’ 7” building height, with 73’ 4” for the elevator penthouse. Floor area ratio or FAR variance is needed as well. The 3.0 FAR maximum is slightly exceeded as a 3.6 FAR is proposed.
St. Anthony Park Community Council recommended approval, with conditions. Conditions sought include asking that the commercial space become community incubator space if it is not leased, that there be a publicly accessible pedestrian path on the east side of the building where there is currently an alley, and that the building meet sustainability conditions outlined in city plans.
No one has come out in opposition to the project.

Bandana Square project moves ahead
One hundred and fifty-three housing units will be built atop a parking ramp near Bandana Square, as a result of St. Paul Planning commission approvals May 1.
TJL Development’s affiliate Pacific Ramp LLC is leading the project, which requires a zoning change and a front yard setback variance. The commission approved the requests, and sent the rezoning request for final approval from the St. Paul City Council. The rezoning will be the focus of a public hearing later in June. for rezoning and the front yard setback variance.
The property is currently occupied by a parking ramp that serves adjacent commercial uses including a hotel. The applicant wants to rezone the property from B3 general business to traditional neighborhoods 3 use, to allow proposed construction of 153 residential units on top of the existing ramp. A portion of the ramp will be leased to the adjacent hotel for guest and employee parking.
The Bandana Square area was historically a rail yard, with its building converted to office, retail and commercial uses. The current uses include a hotel, event center, and office space. Multi-family housing was developed to the west.
City staff recommended approval of the zoning change and variance as did Como Community Council. No one has expressed opposition to the project.

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{ Development Roundup } May 2020

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

University and Fairview plan
Plans for a 146-apartment, five-story mixed-use building near University and Fairview avenues met resistance from the Union Park District Council (UPDC) land use committee. On split votes in March, the committee recommended denial of developer LIG Investments’ requests for a conditional use permit and density variance for the project at 1790-1800 University Ave. the request goes to the full district council for action in the future.
Hamline Midway Coalition has also reviewed the request but took no action.
The project would eventually go to the St. Paul Planning Commission for final approval, regardless of whether or not is has district council support. The site is zoned traditional neighborhoods 3, so no zoning change would be needed.
Developer Alex Gese of LIG Investments is working with Joshua Jansen from Collage Architects on project plans.
Some land use committee members said they couldn’t support the project because of its lack of affordable housing. Others said they needed more time to discuss the plans, but the online meeting was drawing to a close. Supporters said the project is a way to redevelop a site with two older buildings for a higher and better use.
The demand for more affordable housing is also a topic the Planning Commission is studying. St. Paul currently has no inclusionary zoning ordinances that tie zoning approvals to provision of affordable housing units. These ordinance can be used to require that a given share of a new building be affordable to low to moderate-income residents.
St. Paul can only require affordable housing be built if a project developer seeks a city, state or federal funding source.
The project would have a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, with 10 units apiece of the two and three bedroom units. Rents would start at $1,700 for one bedroom and go up to $2,400 for the larger three-bedroom units.
The development site is occupied by two longtime University Avenue businesses, Hafner Furniture at 1800 University Ave. and Bonded Auto Repair at 1790 University Ave. The buildings are at the southwest corner of University and Beacon Street. Gese said the site has its challenges including the need for environmental cleanup.
Eason said the project would help meet market demand for apartments.
The first-floor commercial space could open with a coffee kiosk, which could be developed into a full bar/restaurant in the future. The wide front sidewalk would be an amenity for a first-floor occupant, said Jansen.
Because the site is zoned for TN3 and is along the Green Line light rail transit corridor, it isn’t required to have any off-street parking. Seventy-six enclosed parking spaces and bike parking are planned.

University/Hampden development moves ahead

John O’Brien, who manages the commercial Wright Building west of the site, appeared at the Zoning Committee public hearing to speak in opposition. The Wright Building has off-street parking it already must police to keep non-tenant vehicles out. He believes that such a large parking variance next door will mean more vehicles illegally parked in the lot.

A proposed five-story building with 147 apartments and 1,400 square feet of commercial space won approval from the St. Paul Planning Commission Friday April 3. Paster Development and Yellow Tree Management are seeking a conditional use permit and variances for 2225 University Ave. The developers would tear down a one-story office building and cinderblock garage that are currently on the ell-shaped property.
The Planning Commission Zoning Committee voted March 12 to support the conditional use permit and variances, despite staunch neighborhood opposition to a parking variance. The project drew letters in opposition from almost 100 neighbors opposed to the project’s parking variance, citing high demand for parking in the area already created by other apartment buildings in the area. The variance is for 57 spaces. The project has 80 underground, with the rest in a parking lot along Charles Ave. The project requires 147 spaces.
Mike Sturdivant of Paster Development said they don’t anticipate that every building resident will own a motor vehicle, given its location along light rail and local bus routes. The development team also said they would provide ample bike parking for residents.
The site’s location along Green Line light rail and bus routes justify the parking variance. The property was rezoned for traditional neighborhoods use in 2011, as part of a sweeping University Ave. rezoning process. Had the site been rezoned for TN use, it would not be required to provide any off-street parking.
“The zoning to industrial-transitional came at a time when there was concern about the loss of industrial zoning,” said Senior City Planner Anton Jerve.
St. Anthony Park Community Council and three other property owners and residents also sent letters of approval.
The project requires Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) approval, as it is in the Historic Raymond Village Heritage Preservation District.
The site is long and narrow, with 103 feet of frontage along University Ave. Its north end abuts Charles Ave., extending all the way to Pillsbury Ave. Its site is sloping, and the grade at Charles is eight feet higher than the grade at University.

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Is there enough parking at former Sholom site?

Is there enough parking at former Sholom site?

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Former Shalom development plans

City staff, neighbors and board members debate whether 80 spots is enough for 150 apartments

By Jane McClure
The former Sholom Home, which has been vacant for more than a decade, will be redeveloped as a 150-unit apartment building.
The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Feb. 24, 2020 unanimously approved two variances needed by developer Midway Community Group LLC for the conversion. That decision is final unless it is appealed to the St. Paul City Council within 10 days. As of the Monitor deadline no appeal had been filed.
Sholom closed in 2009 when a new facility was built in the city’s West End. Its old complex consists of four buildings, the oldest one dating from 1922 and the newest from 1970.
Several developers have looked at the property since the Sholom moved out. A conditional use permit allowing 170 dwelling units was granted in 2015 but has expired.
How such a new use will coexist across the street from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and just a few blocks west of busy Como Park, remains to be seen. The developers contend that the new housing will be an option for people who want a vehicle-free lifestyle, with its proximity to A Line rapid bus service and other transit. Project foes are skeptical.

Parking, unit size variances
The former nursing home, which is on a site zoned for RM2 multi-family residential, needs two variances for the project to go ahead. One is for unit size. The zoning code requires a minimum lot size of 1,500 square feet per unit. The developer is proposing 882 square feet of lot area per unit, for a variance of 678 square feet per unit.
Another variance, which sparked the most debate, is for parking. The zoning code requires 166 off-street parking spaces, but 80 enclosed and lot spaces are proposed, for a variance of 86 parking spaces. Parking was a flash point during the Feb. 24 debate. City staff recommended denial of the variances. Matthew Graybar of the BZA staff said that adding more than 80 vehicles “would flood the area.”
Planning staff, in a memo, also recommended denial. City staff suggested a smaller, 80-unit building but the developers said that didn’t make sense financially.
One wrinkle in the issue is this: the property’s underlying RM residential multifamily zoning could face changes as a result of an ongoing St. Paul Planning Commission study. The study and a future city council decision to change the zoning code could mean the site could accommodate a new five-story building with more than 350 apartments if the Sholom complex came down and a new multi-family structure went up. That study, and a second study calling for relaxed parking standards citywide, could compound the area’s parking problems
BZA members debated the issues at length and voted on the variances separately. They made requests including asking the developers to provide incentives for transit use. Some Snelling Ave.developers in recent months have given tenants a bus card at the start of their leases.
“The problem is where this site is,” said board member Luis Rangel-Morales. “You can provide all kinds of incentives, but people will still drive.”
“That area really struggles with parking issues,” said board member Daniel Miller. But board members ultimately agreed that the project should go ahead, noting that if parking is a problem the developers will have to find a solution or lose residents.

Will lack of parking affect how many rent?
The community development corporation, Northeast Neighborhoods Development Corporation, is a development partner. Its executive director, Chuck Repke, said developers wouldn’t be moving ahead with the project if they didn’t think it was viable. The developers met four times with neighbors to discuss the project.
The developers raised several arguments, including financial viability and building reuse, in making their case for the variances. Plans call for 22 studio apartments; 97 one-bedroom apartments; 24 two-bedroom apartments of 800-900 square feet; and seven three-bedroom apartments. Apartments would be market-rate. Repke describes prospective residents as empty nesters and graduate students.
He predicted many residents won’t own vehicles but will rely on transit and possibly a shared-use vehicle or vehicles at the building. “You’re not going to find better transit than Snelling Ave.,” Repke said.
“Clearly there are limitations on parking,” Repke said. “I’ve been there during the state fair and it is insane.”
Como Community Council/District 10 recommended approval of the variances.
One neighbor, Kathy Kelly, appeared in opposition to express concerns about parking. She said her block of Midway Parkway is already greatly affected by spillover parking from the frequent uses of the fairground and park activities. “Now summer weekends will be every single day of our lives,” she said.
Repke said the developers would personally work with neighbors on parking issues and even help them submit applications for residential permit parking.

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{ Development Roundup } March 2020

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

University and Dale
Redevelopment work continues on the northwest corner of University Ave. and Dale St. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, voted Feb. 26 on measures for the project. A five-story, mixed-use building with 20,000 square feet of commercial space and 40 affordable housing units is planned. The project has a value of more than $28 million.
The HRA Board approved the convergence of 621 University Ave. from city ownership to the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) Entrepreneur Training Center. NDC is working with developer Wellington Management on the project.
Apartments planned for the building will be studios to three-bedroom units.
The property has been owned by the city since 1989. It was owned by the Alexander family. Patriarch Ferris Alexander owned and operated an X-rated theater at the corner, the Flick. The Flick and its neighbors, the Belmont Club and the Faust Theater, generated debate for years over adult uses in neighborhoods. The theaters were especially criticized and were the site of several protests. The Faust and Belmont sites were redeveloped several years ago.
The former Flick site was green space and has been used for many community gatherings over the years.
The HRA Board also took other action tied to the project. The board approved restructuring of two existing loans into one loan totaling more than $94,000. The board also released HRA mortgages on 625 and 627 University Ave., and obtained a new mortgage on 501 N. Dale St. The changes affect loans dating back to 1997 and 1999, as the city worked with NDC to redevelop the properties. The University sites will be part of the new mixed-use development and 501 Dale St. will be renovated.

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{ Development Roundup } Feb 2020

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

Taco Bell won’t be rebuilding
Facing the prospect of a no vote from the St. Paul Planning Commission, Taco Bell has shelved plans for a new restaurant at 565 N. Snelling Ave. That means the current restaurant, which dates from 1973, can remain in place indefinitely. It also means neighbors may have less leverage to seek changes in what they considered to be disruptive operations.
But it drops a plan that could have put vehicles closer to adjacent homes.
The request was supposed to go to the Planning Commission Zoning Committee in December 2019, but were delayed at the applicant’s request. A January hearing was cancelled after the application was withdrawn.

Casket company building to become affordable housing
A Midway project is among the efforts winning grants in January from the Metropolitan Council. The council approved a total of $3.3 million in grants.
The council awarded one contamination investigation grant and 10 clean-up grants. “Housing affordable to working families and older residents who earn lower incomes is increasingly scarce in the metro region,” said Council Chair Charlie Zelle. “Stable, quality housing is at the heart of thriving families and communities. These local projects are revitalizing properties and creating housing and jobs that will increase regional prosperity.”
One project is for the former casket company building at 1222 University Ave. The building has housed different office and commercial uses in recent years. Plans call for it to be renovated into 62 affordable housing units.
The grant awarded is $49,200 for an environmental assessment work plan, environmental assessment, hazardous materials abatement plan, vapor mitigation pilot test and other activities.

Met Council gives $ to Alatus
A controversial housing project near the southwest corner of University Ave. and Lexington Parkway has obtained development funding from Metropolitan Council. On Jan. 8, the council approved a $1.25 million Livable Community Transit-oriented development grant for Alatus’ proposed project at 411-417 N. Lexington Parkway.
The funding, which was approved on the council consent agenda without discussion, would help pay for new sidewalks and streets, a renewable energy geothermal system and stormwater management. The total cost for the mixed-use, 226-apartment project is estimated at more than $59 million. Most of that is private funding.
The next step is for the funding request to go to the St. Paul City Council, which has the option of accepting or rejecting the funds. Livable Communities grants are submitted by cities on behalf of developers. No date for city council action has been announced.

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Development plan at ‘superblock’ evolving

Development plan at ‘superblock’ evolving

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE
A 2016 master plan for the Midway Center “superblock” outlined an ambitious vision of 18-story high-rise office buildings along Snelling Ave., as well as apartments, hotel space and commercial properties. Redevelopment reality could be quite different. How different is still unknown.
That lack of specifics frustrated attendees at the Dec. 16, 2019 Union Park District Council’s land use committee meeting. More than two dozen people turned out to hear about the property, which is bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St.
Since Allianz Field opened for its inaugural season in 2019, area residents and business owners have wondered when the rest of 34.5-acre site will be redeveloped. There is also unhappiness that Minnesota United FC hasn’t contributed toward a community benefits fund for neighborhoods around the soccer stadium, despite pressure from Union Park District Council and Hamline Midway Coalition. The fund is meant to support a range of community improvements, based on ideas gathered in a public input process.
Most attention at the district council meeting focused on redevelopment. Minnesotan United FC principal owner Dr. Bill McGuire asked for patience. He also said that while plans are in the works, those behind redevelopment must persuade potential partners that there are exciting plans for the property.
“The odds of (the site) looking exactly like the master plan are zero,” he said. While there is still a vision of a mixed-use urban village as outlined in the 2016 plan, it won’t be to the scale city planners imagined.
The lack of action on redevelopment is causing the most frustration. “Who makes the decisions?” said Hamline-Midway resident Jonathan Oppenheimer. “Who should we hold accountable?”
When the pace of redevelopment was questioned, McGuire said, “We have a good thing here. We don’t have the rest of it yet.” He added that Allianz Field is something the community can be proud of and it will spark redevelopment.
“You have a quarter of a billion dollar stadium that the whole world is talking about …streets, trees, grass and people. Five hundred thousand people came to this neighborhood in 2019 because of redevelopment,” McGuire said.
Minnesota United and the shopping center owners are working with the architecture firm Populous, which designed the stadium itself. What’s envisioned is a smaller, mixed-use village-type development.
“I spend more time on this than anybody,” he said, describing himself and Midway Center owner Rick Birdoff as the two decision makers. McGuire and his partners lease Midway Center from its longtime, New York City-based owners.
McGuire estimates that more than $1 million has been spent on planning for redevelopment, which could start in the fall. But there are issues to work out with the city and Metropolitan Council, which owns the former bus garage property at the northeast corner of Snelling and St. Anthony, before development can proceed.
Redevelopment of the entire site has an estimated cost of $850 million. The initial projects McGuire sees are an apartment complex with up to 240 units, a hotel and buildings adjacent to the Great Lawn with first-floor food vendors and offices on the upper floors.
One challenge with redevelopment, especially when affordable housing is considered, is that the Midway Center property is valued up to $5 million per acre. But McGuire said some level of affordable housing hasn’t been ruled out.
The site also has its challenges with a high water table along Snelling and the high costs of providing parking, especially underground parking.
Much hinges on what development partners can be brought in. The Midway Center redevelopment also is affected by what happens on the Midway Marketplace block to the east, where Walmart closed last year.
In the meantime, less than half of the Midway Center strip mall is still standing, along with three smaller buildings along University.
One likely change is that the Great Lawn park area north of Allianz Field is poised to become an entertainment district, which was the topic of a St. Paul City Council public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at City Hall. The parkland agreement with MUSC LLC keeps the green space open to the public as part of the city park system. Delaware North, which oversees food and beverage concessions at Allianz Field, has applied for an extension of the liquor service area on the Great Lawn as well as the areas between and across Shields Ave. to allow patrons to consume malt liquor, strong beer and wine at events held there. The change would be in time for 2020 events.

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{ Development Roundup } January 2020

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

Reuter Walton unveils Fairview plans at Fairview and University
Two seven-story apartment buildings could rise at the northwest corner of University and Fairview avenues. Minneapolis-based Reuter Walton Development presented plans for 279 apartments in December to the Hamline Midway Coalition Development Committee. The project will go through the city approval process in 2020.
The complex will be one of the first new affordable housing projects on University west of Snelling Ave. The property, which is comprised of commercial buildings and a parking lot, is owned by Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota. Reuter Walton was selected as developer through a request for proposals process conducted by the property owners, and has a purchase agreement for the property.
Paul Keenan, vice president for development at Reuter Walton, outlined the project. The University-Fairview development would be its first affordable housing project, Keenan said, with a mix of apartments offered at 30 to 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). Rents could be as low as $71 per month for a studio, at 30 percent of AMI.
Two buildings are proposed, one with 157 units and the other with 122 units.
The buildings would have a mix of studios, one, two and three-bedroom units. About 70 three-bedroom and 65 units would have two bedrooms, meeting a high demand for larger affordable units.
The buildings would share a 150-space Charles Ave. parking space with Goodwill/Easter Seals and would have 127 stalls of underground parking entered from a point mid-block. Each building would be E-shaped, with two plazas fronting University.
The developers studied the station area plans for the Green Line Fairview Avenue Station, the neighborhood plan for Hamline-Midway and other city plans, said Keenan. One goal is to improve the pedestrian experience in the area, with wider sidewalks, public art and preservation of the walkway connection between Goodwill/Easter Seals and the Fairview station.
HMC Committee members liked the idea of affordable housing, but they questioned why the project has no first-floor retail. Keenan said retail space can be challenging to rent. “We’ve had a lot of retail sit vacant in our developments,” he said.
The site has been in transition for more than a decade. Buildings where the parking lot is located were torn down several years ago. Finn Sisu’s old building, which most recently was a place of worship, will be torn down, along with another larger commercial building and a former service station/restaurant/retail shop.

Library property up for bids
The long-vacant Lexington Branch Library, 1080 University Ave., is being offered for redevelopment by the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).
The building, which was originally the Center Theater, hasn’t been used as a library since 2005. It was replaced by the Rondo Community Outreach Library. It is zoned for traditional neighborhoods three mixed use and is near the Lexington Green Line eastbound station. The property size is .62 acres. Its value, based on a 2018 appraisal, is $450,000.
The HRA bought the building from the city’s library agency in 2014. A structural engineering report indicates that the building, while structurally sound, is in fair to poor condition. City documents indicate that the HRA will consider reuse as well as demolition proposals.

Residents say ‘no’ to Alatus
Citing the lack of affordable housing and a fear that new market-rate apartments could drive up rents and local property taxes, neighbors voted on Jan. 2 to oppose developer Alatus’ request for $11.25 million in public financing to aid in the construction of a six story, 236-unit mixed-use residential and commercial building at 411-417 N. Lexington Pkwy.

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final-b-line-map

B Line route may extend to downtown St. Paul

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

The initial route proposed for the B Line.

After hearing from community members, planners now recommend extending the B Line to downtown St. Paul.
The B Line will run along Lake St., Marshall Ave. and Selby Ave. Initial plans called for the B Line to only go as far east as Snelling Ave.
Planners recommend that the existing Route 21 along that corridor remain on a limited basis, running on Lake St. between Hennepin Ave. and Minnehaha Ave. every 30 minutes.
From April to October of 2019, B Line staff attended or hosted 26 community events, participated in bus ride-alongs and stop pop-ups, and connected with over 1,500 individual people to help inform the planning process and preliminary recommendations for the B Line.
Community input on preliminary recommendations is still being gathered to shape a draft corridor plan for the B Line.
This draft plan will be released for public comment in 2020, and will include more detailed information on planned station locations. To co-host an event or schedule a presentation, contact Cody Olson, Community Outreach Coordinator, at BLine@metrotransit.org or 612-349-7390. The Metropolitan Council will consider approval of a final B Line corridor plan in 2020.

The new route proposed for the B Line.

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The Pitch meets delays

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE MCCLURE
Too-high groundwater levels and rising construction costs have slowed the start on the Pitch, a six-story mixed-use development west of Allianz Field.
The six-story project, which was to break ground this fall, is delayed until 2020. Union Park District Council’s land use committee heard an update Nov. 18 from developer Wellington Management.
The Pitch is to be located at 427 N. Snelling Ave., the longtime home of Bremer Bank. The bank recently moved into temporary space at Spruce Tree Center and is to occupy part of the commercial space in the new building. The bank building is expected to come down in December.
The building will have about 158 units of varying sizes and 13,000 square feet of commercial space. Dwelling units will be a mix of micro-units, studios, one and two-bedrooms, at market-rate rents. Walgreens has been suggested as one of the other commercial tenants.
The high water table has been a key factor in the delay, said Casey Dzieweczynski, Wellington project manager. “We put meters into the ground and over the last spring, we saw that the groundwater level was up seven to eight feet.”
That meant eliminating one of two planned underground parking levels for residents and reducing the amount of parking to 55 spaces on one level, said Dzieweczynski. To offset the reduction Wellington is considering adding an automated car lift to the underground level that would allow for approximately 30 more stalls, bringing the total to 85.
The parking change doesn’t require another round of St. Paul Planning Commission approvals. The original development had 142 parking spaces, with 25 for commercial patrons and 117 for residents. The second level of underground parking would have been for residents, as is the first level. But because the development site is zoned traditional neighborhoods three and is within one-quarter mile of Green Line light rail, there is no minimum number of parking spots required.
“I’m excited to hear that there is less parking,” said Henry Parker, a member of the UPDC board and committee. “It will show other developers and investors that there is not as much of a need for parking.”
The Planning Commission in April approved a conditional use permit, floor area ratio variance and nonconforming use permit for the project. A conditional use permit is needed for height. The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods three use, which allows a height of up to 55 feet. A height of up to 90 feet is allowed with a conditional use permit; a height of 75 feet is proposed.
The nonconforming use permit allows the new development to have two drive-through lanes, one of the bank and one for the pharmacy. The existing bank building has two drive-through lanes.
Another change is in contractors. Original contractor Watson Forsberg has been replaced by Hopkins-based Frana Companies. Frana is building the six-story Scannell Properties project north of the Wellington site. This fall the old Furniture Barn and World of Wireless building came down to make way for that new development. Frana is also working with Exeter Group to build an apartment building at Marshall and Western avenues this fall.
A third change is in project architect, with UrbanWorks Architecture replacing Pope Associates. New building drawings haven’t been completed, but Dzieweczynski said the structure would be similar to what was originally announced.

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Development Roundup December 2019

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jane McClure

New Taco Bell restaurant?
A controversial plan to rebuild the Taco Bell at 565 N. Snelling Ave. is going back before the St. Paul Planning Commission and its Zoning Committee. Plans for Zoning Committee hearing 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 at City Hall, and a commission vote as soon as Dec. 20.
Planning Commission decisions on conditional use permits are final unless they are appealed to the St. Paul City Council.
There has been a Mexican-style fast-food restaurant at the site since 1973, including Zantigo and Zapata as well as Taco Bell. In 2015 a new restaurant was proposed but plans were set aside after objections from neighbors and Planning Commission members. At the Planning Commission, there was debate as to whether or not allowing the current business to keep operating was a good outcome.
Restaurant owner Border Foods wants to tear down and replace the existing restaurant, retaining its current drive-through service. Plans call for moving the drive-through service farther away from residents, adding a wall and other buffering features, and reducing the amount of on-site parking.
Taco Bell has been a source of controversy. Late-night and early morning patron behavior at the drive-through has drawn complaints over the years, including noise, fights, loitering and other behaviors.
One complication for Border Foods and for neighbors is the lack of clarity in city records. At some point a drive-through window was installed, although a conditional use permit was never issued for the window. It’s not clear why that didn’t happen because the permits are a longtime requirement for all types of drive-through services. With no conditional use permit for Taco Bell, the city never had a chance to place conditions on operations such as speaker placement and noise levels, and hours.
Another wrinkle is that the site’s longtime commercial zoning was changed to traditional neighborhoods use, as part of a larger study for North Snelling. That type of zoning is meant to promote denser, more walkable neighborhoods and deter uses such as drive-through services.

Parking ramp changes hands
One of the few city-owned parking ramps outside of downtown has a new owner. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) November 13, approved the sale of the Spruce Tree Center ramp to the adjacent office building owner, Spruce Tree Center LLC.
Sale price is $1.5 million.
A license agreement with the city will allow for 200 ramp spaces to be used for events at Allianz Field, the Major League Soccer stadium just east and south of Spruce Tree Center. The terms of the license agreement allow for up to 25 professional soccer matches and up to 10 other events, as well as a gold cup soccer event.
The center and ramp are at the southwest corner of University and Snelling avenue. A purchase has been negotiated for more than a year.
In 1987 the city worked with Metro Plains development to build the office building and the ramp. The building, with its bright green exterior, is meant to resemble a spruce tree. The building was in private ownership, but the ramp was a city-owned ramp.
The operating agreement gave the building owner the right to purchase the ramp.

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