Keystone project moves ahead
Keystone Community Services’ planned new and expand food shelf facilities took a step ahead Oct. 20 as the St. Paul City Council approved an allocation of $902,255 in federal Community Development Block Grant COVID 19-related (CDBG-CV) dollars.
The funds will go toward the conversion of a longtime transmission shop and furniture store at the southwest corner of University Ave. and Beacon St. Keystone will consolidate its existing food operations in the new space.
The funding is from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The federal government has allocated CDBG dollars for decades, but the pandemic has resulted in additional CDBG funding specific to needs related to the public health crisis. This money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act.
Because the food shelf has provided a much higher volume of food since the start of the pandemic, city staff and Mayor Melvin Carter’s administration deemed Keystone eligible for the funding. The funding has to be used for needs related to the ongoing pandemic.
The matter was laid over once by the council as members sought more information. While council members agree that the new food shelf is a worthy endeavor, they want more information. They also questioned why the funds aren’t being awarded through a competitive process and why an expenditure of almost $1 million appeared on the consent agenda. That council agenda is where several items are passed with one vote.
City staff acknowledged that more could have been done to share information about the funding process, with the entire city council.
The nonprofit is consolidating food shelves and adding space by converting two longtime commercial buildings into a bigger food storage, handling and distribution center. Keystone will close smaller food shelves and consolidate into one.
Keystone serves people throughout the city but also refers them to local shelves if they live in neighborhoods outside of the western part of St. Paul.
Keystone has held 21 drive up food distribution events, and has seen great increases in the number of people served in 2020 and 2021.
One of the current site occupants, Hotel Furniture Liquidators, is moving Dec. 1 to Concord Street in South St. Paul from 1800 University Ave. The other, Bonded Transmission Specialists, has moved to Maplewood from 1790 University Ave.
Area projects compete
Area projects are in the running for redevelopment-related funding. The St. Paul City Council Oct. 20 approved applications for area two projects. For state and regional applications, the city acts as a funding conduit.
One request is for a planned new St. Paul City School location in Frogtown, at 215 University Ave. The site at the northeast corner of University and Marion Street was a vehicle sales lot years ago but has been vacant. City officials are seeking a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) grant for contamination cleanup. The school currently occupies former Frogtown Catholic school buildings at St. Adalbert and St. Vincent de Paul.
The second application is to Metropolitan Council for Tax Base Revitalization Account (TBRA) dollars fund for three projects including Kimball Court, a low-income housing facility at 543 and 555 N. Snelling Ave. That project received needed planning commission approval several months ago.
Vacant building gets reprieve
Owners of a building at 1630 University Ave. have been given a 90-day reprieve from added city fees. But city officials are urging Ridgecrest St. Paul LLC to find a new occupant or owner for the former dental office by Dec. 11. The St. Paul City Council approved the extension Oct. 27.
At a legislative hearing earlier this fall Trent Mayberry of Ridgecrest St. Paul LLC said that the building was purchased, along with the former Pawn America to the west, for redevelopment, in 2019. The former pawn shop was razed and replaced with a Bank of America; the owners are trying to lease out or sell 1630 University.
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