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Two small parking lots approved next to the soccer stadium

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

MN United wins again; City Council approves 5-year permit despite objection by both local community councils

By JANE MCCLURE
Two interim parking lots, with fewer than 200 spaces in all, can be built for the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium. On Aug. 15 the St. Paul City Council granted an interim use permit to Minnesota United Soccer Club Holdings LLC for the lots. The lots east of Snelling Ave. can remain in place for up to five years.

Illustration right: Two small parking lots west of the stadium and east of Snelling Ave. can be built. (Illustration provided)

The creation of interim surface parking for the stadium, which opens in 2019, is a point of debate. Some stadium neighbors fear being overrun with soccer fan parking and question whether the spaces would be enough to even make a dent in the parking need. Others contend that more needs to be done to encourage transit use, walking and biking to games, and sharing of existing ramps and lots. They believe that building even small interim parking lots sends the wrong message.

Councils wanted more time
Approval was despite a request from Hamline Midway Coalition and United Park District Council seeking more time to discuss the issue. In a letter from both councils, Megan Conley stated, “While we appreciate the need for additional parking on the roughly 20 soccer event days, this space resides in a neighborhood of people who interact with the location 365 days per year. We believe it is possible to create a dual use for this space that can meet the needs of the team and the community.”

Representatives of the district councils met with Minnesota United lead owner Bill McGuire in March and July to discuss ideas to make the space aesthetically pleasing, potentially as space where neighbors could gather and connect with one another. McGuire rejected that suggestion and told the council representatives that the space would be developed in a short time. In the meantime, it will only be used for parking.

“The team’s request for permission to use the space for parking for five years indicates that imminent development is less likely than first anticipated, and that the suggestions made by the community representatives should receive serious consideration. Also, because these parking lots will be paid lots on game day we believe this revenue will offset the modest expenses incurred in creating a dual use,” Conley wrote. “With that in mind, we respectfully request that you delay approval of this interim permit … We believe it is reasonable to delay this decision because the team will not need parking until spring 2019, which leaves adequate time to create and implement a shared vision for the space.”

Recently the district councils formed a community benefits task force to work on stadium-related issues. What form any stadium-related community benefits would take hasn’t been determined.

Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson said she shares the district councils’ frustration as to how the interim use permit request was brought forward. But she also acknowledged that “there are a lot of moving parts” with stadium development. She planned to set up a meeting between Mayor Melvin Carter III’s office and the two district councils to discuss their concerns.

Ward One Council Member Dai Thao said he’ll continue to work with the team and community members on potential shared use.

No one appeared at the public hearing on the interim use. City staff recommended approval. Senior City Planner Kady Dadlez said that interim use permits are allowed under state law if they met a set of specific conditions. Interim uses under state law must conform with a city’s zoning regulations, must have a set end date, cannot impose additional public costs if the property is restored in the future, and must follow any conditions the city sets.

The city, in turn, can put limits on an interim use permit. The City Council approval Aug. 15 allows the stadium’s parking lots to be in place through Nov. 2023. The lots will need to be paved and striped, with rain gardens, curbs and gutter, and lighting. If the interim use period ends without redevelopment, the pavement must be removed and replaced with grass. Rain gardens must be maintained in good working condition. Handicapped parking must be placed close to the stadium. A city site plan on the file for the lots must be followed when the lots are built.

What the master plan says
A master plan for the superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St. was approved by the City Council two years ago. The plan calls for office/retail uses in the area along Snelling where the parking lots are to be located, with structured or ramp parking.

The master plan outlines the possibility of short-term parking use. But because the interim parking isn’t part of the approved plan, an interim use permit is needed.

St. Paul doesn’t grant many interim uses. One controversial permit is for a parking lot near the University of St. Thomas. Its site was supposed to be developed several years ago, but has had its interim use permit extended twice.

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