19.11.05

stp: The R&R Books Fiasco

The city of Saint Paul is trying to ruin one of the more interesting corners on University Avenue. This place -- the multi-building complex on the corner of University and St. Albans -- is such a diamond in the rough that it actually houses "Capitol City Hatters," where you can have your fedora cleaned and blocked. Sure, the new Frogtown branch of the Saint Paul library is great, but the city is over-reaching by trying to clean up the neighorhood with eminent domain. Here's the City Pages' take on what's going on:
Earlier this month the St. Paul City Council, acting as the municipality's Housing and Redevelopment Authority, voted unanimously to spend up to $2 million to condemn the properties, seize them through eminent domain, and tear down the existing buildings. (A vacuum cleaner retailer that would also be adversely affected by the project has agreed to sell out to the city for $780,000.) Under the current plan, a development group led by the Welsh Companies would then build a $6.8 million, 21,000-square-foot commercial office building.
...
What's more, a report prepared by the city's Department of Planning and Economic Development assesses the worth of Olson's property at $481,000--or barely a third of the price that Olson has negotiated on the open market. And to make matters more puzzling, the report erroneously claims that the liquor store is currently "vacant." "I don't know why they keep on insisting that it's vacant when it's not," Seltz says.

The bookstore and the next-door liquor store are the last remnants of what was the epicenter of Saint Paul's smut district. I've been to this liquor store a few times, and I'd be the first to admit that it's sketchy as hell. The brick building that houses R&R Books is a pretty nice, two-story brick structure, and University Avenue needs to keep all those buildings intact.

There are so many unused spaces on University Avenue. Take the Wendy's across the street, or the Dale St. police station, or the Saxon Ford that's recently closing. If the city wants to build an office building, they should look at any of these places, and not tear down occupied businesses.

Minneapolis didn't try to tear down Augie's strib club just because the light rail train stopped in front of it. The magic of city is in it's unplanned juxtapositions. How often do you have a hattery right next to an adult bookstore?

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