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St. Andrew’s teardown okayed by Council

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
tesha@monitorsaintpaul.com
In six weeks, the wrecking ball may hit Historic Saint Andrew’s Church, destroying the 92-year-old facility designed by St. Paul’s first city architect, Charles A. Hausler.
Last year, property owner Twin Cities German Immersion School announced its intention to tear down the decommissioned church building to construct a three-story, 25,000-square-foot addition with two gyms.
On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, the St. Paul City Council voted against designating Saint Andrew’s Church as an Historic Preservation site, as recommended by its own Historic Preservation Commission, on a 5-0 vote with one recusal (Jane Prince, East Side) and one absence (Kassim Busuri, East Side).
The council then approved both the site plan and the three variances requested by the school with conditions that seek to address impacts the school’s enrollment growth has on parking, traffic, pedestrian safety, and playground noise.
According to the District 10 Como Community Council, in normal circumstances, it takes about six weeks to receive all the permits and approvals needed to start demolition and construction.
The city council had originally been slated to vote on the issue on May 22, but then delayed it so that representatives from the school and neighborhood group, Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA), could meet with a mediator as encouraged by City Council President Amy Brendmoen, who lives a few blocks from the school.
City-hired mediator Aimee Gourlay did not think there was enough time for the process and concluded in her report: “There is little likelihood of a useful mediation at this point. A failed conflict intervention could make things worse and could reduce the potential for successful conflict resolution in the future. At some point there will be another opportunity to resolve differences.”
A City Pages article on May 15 detailed behind-the-scenes, sabotage and a plan for partial demolition being done by TCGIS “to destroy any hope that the building lives on,” according to internal school emails.

MERA RESTRAINING ORDER
SHSA filed a suit in Ramsey County on June 3 under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to ensure that the 92-year-old structure will not be torn down.
MERA protects cultural and historic resources from destruction, and requires owners and developers to demonstrate that there are no feasible alternatives to demolition. The State Historic Preservation Office has said the church qualifies for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We absolutely believe there are alternatives other than demolition here, and we need more time to explore them,” said SHSA President Teri Alberico, who lives next door to the school.
“We owe this to our future. Once this structure is gone, it’s gone forever.”

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