Reading the Highland Villager #55

[The Villager waits for the bus.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Total # of articles about sidewalks: 16
Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure: 15*

Headline: Developer sues city for rejecting Pelham site plan 
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on repercussions of the city council’s recent decision to reject the plan for a warehouse near I-94 and the Rock-Tenn plant. The developer is suing. The City Council overturned the planning commission’s recommendation to approve the project because of pressure from the local neighborhood group. [This just in! It turns out that planners and politicians are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place having developers and their lawyers on one side, and easily perturbed neighborhood groups on the other. –Ed.] Includes detail that the developer “is frustrated.”

Headline: HPC favors rathskeller, office plans at brewery

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) approved plans for the actually happening Schmidt Brewery re-development which required a “rare interior and exterior review.”  There will be offices and a “rathskeller.” [Prepare for a new word to enter your lives, St Paulians!]

Headline: Mixed-use zoning sought at Grand-Smith
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The vacant gas station and un-vacant Burger King near Grand and Smith may be re-zoning to Traditional Neighborhood [which would disallow future auto-oriented uses], if the neighborhood group gets its way. The Planning Commission will vote on the change on March 9th. [Gulp.]

Headline: Council to hear neighbors’ appeal of Pizza Luce parking lot
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people who live near the Pizza Luce on Selby are appealing the construction of a new parking lot to the City Council. The District Council and Board of Zoning Appeals are OK with the lot [which means the neighbors will likely lose their argument]. Includes following typo: “Neighbors are concerned that the proposed lot is too narrow and will force cars to have to back out onto Selby, a safety jazard that the neighbors contend is already happening…”

Headline: University of St. Thomas is granted license to sell liquor with conditions

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: St. Thomas can now charge alumni high prices for wine at events and stuff. Includes use of phrase “after umpteen hours of debate.” [Is Jane getting cynical? If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone! –Ed.]

Headline: Cupcake drops plan for Grand location
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: After being harassed repeatedly about parking minimums by the neighborhood group, and in spite of the support from the City Council, the [wonderful] bakery Cupcake won’t open a new store in an abandoned boutique on Grand Avenue. [This is pretty stupid. Here’s a case where the business owner was NOT the one demanding tons of parking. Instead, its parking obsessed neighbors. –Ed.] The debate was about the exact number of off-street spaces required, which varied between 3 and 7 and 10 and may or may not have included a racks. [How many years from now do we have to wait until we see businesses turning parking spots into bike corrals, like in Portland? At this rate, I’ll put the over/under at 42.5 years. –Ed.]

Headline: Citizens debate blueprint for riverfront parks

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Meetings are happening all over the city about a plan for parks along the river. [For some reason] this plan is always referred to as “the Great River Passage.”

Headline: Committee favors reuse of studio space

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old fire station on Snelling avenue that used to be a dance studio can now become a yoga studio without needing a whole bunch of new parking spots because they’re going to share some of the spots next door.

Headline: Two area places make National Register

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: A church and a hall for deaf people are gonna be preserved now.

Headline: More Highland ash trees set for removal

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: 159 ash trees are gonna be chopped down soon.

Headline: Concerns raised over changing permit parking area near St. Thomas
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: There’s a debate at the Mac-Groveland neighborhood group over whether to expand a permit parking area near Summit and Cleveland, near St Thomas. Includes quote, “permit parking is not popular.”

Headline: Businesses debate a complete or partial closing of Selby in April 

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Public works has given the area near Selby and Snelling a Hobson’s choice: Either close the whole street for one week, or half the street for three weeks, in order to do some work on a underground power line. Includes quote, “good signage goes a long way toward alleviating road rage.”

Headline: Snelling will be resurfaced in 2012 and get new corner sidewalk ramps
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Snelling from Dayton to Montreal and then down the hill to West 7th will be resurfaced, and new crosswalks will be added, all this summer. Includes discussion of complete streets legislation. [Basically, because the law hasn’t been “implemented” yet at MN-DOT they don’t have to do anything really to improve the terrible quality of life along Snelling through the city.] Includes traffic counts: 43,000 cars / day at Marshall Avenue [which is a lot, but you have to wonder how much of that traffic is coming from Ayd Mill Road being connected? Short short short version is this: MN-DOT (and St Paul) had a chance to really improve the livability, sidewalk experience, bike safety, property values, and the neighborhood along Snelling and didn’t do anything much at all to make the quality of life any better. Snelling Avenue sidewalk caf├ęs, the subject of an upcoming TCSidewalks series, are going to be almost un-sittably bad for a long long time to come thanks to what should be a neighborhood commercial street being turned into a classic ‘stroad’ quasi-freeway. –Ed.]

Headline: Cyclist for all seasons; Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night keeps Chris Budel from his appointed ride
Reporter: Chas Jensen

Short short version: [“Epic”] character piece on St Paul winter biker and comic book shop owner who, at the age of 53, rides everywhere even in the winter. Includes photo of winter gear-laden cyclist: panniers, studded tire mountain bike, lots of tech layers, red helmet, neon green jacket. Includes other details about winter biking. Includes quotes from Nick Mason, manager of education programs for the Bike Alliance, who does bike instructor training. Includes quote from Budel, “I tend to proselytize.” [I know Chris from the Bike Coalition, on whose mailing list you should all place your names. Please do it? Anyway, I like Chris! But at the same time, I wish there was a way to have articles like this better reflect the everyday, non-proselytizing cyclist. You know, headlines like, “Against all odds, student makes it to class after two hours of sleep thanks to $50 Wal-Mart bike” or “Neither lack of bike lane nor choking on car pollution nor 6:00am start keeps Latino dishwasher from biking to work because he needs the money.” You know, something like that. –Ed.]

Headline: Council gives the green light to new Griggs Street bikeway
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Despite my parent’s testimony,] the City Council approved the Griggs Bike “Boulevard” minus one traffic circle at Dayton, removed at the behest of neighbors and CM Carter III. [This came from NTP dollars, and is the culmination of many years of struggle in St Paul to construct some sort of bicycle street. But as a bicycle obsessed friend of mine (and my parents) pointed out, it was hardly one of the top needs to create a boulevard on this street, which was already pretty good for biking anyway with its low traffic counts etc. On the other hand, bike boulevards are intended not to appeal to people who are already riding around St Paul, but to people who aren’t. So, to that end, it’s going to likely do a at least some good, as well as be a ‘demonstration’ project for future similar streets. Another benefit of bike boulevards v. bike lanes is that they solve some of the intractable problems having to do w/ biking and snow removal. Despite their best efforts Public Works can’t really plow bike lanes worth a damn. Having a street that gets plowed down the middle, and at the same time gives priority to cyclists (so that cars have to be OK with following slowly behind bikes) might solve problems for snowy winters like last year. –Ed.]

Headline: City approves agreements for two customer parking lots of University
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved leasing two off-street parking lots along the LRT line for shared parking. One will be near Dale, the other is being leased near Snelling.  The city wants to build its own parking lot near Sherburne in the future.

* Fifteen articles in one Villager ties the all-time high record for Jane! Special extra note on Jane McClure: Now that I am at St Paul Planning Commission meetings, its completely bizarre but I get to see Jane McClure in action. She attends all the meetings, sitting in the back, usually reading the newspaper. She always leaves early. It's a bit like if a Beatles memorabilia collector were to ride the bus with Ringo.


Andrew Balfour said...

Glad I could help crush the Pelham developer's dreams of constructing another ugly suburban warehouse/industrial building within walking distance of the new light rail station.

Seriously St Paul Port Authority, WTH?

Bill Lindeke said...

e.g. this: http://tcsidewalks.blogspot.com/2011/02/planning-blunder-10-saint-pauls-and.html

Evan Roberts said...

The Cupcake thing is an outrage, and shows what parking minimums and giving neighborhood associations the power over business decisions can do to the latent demand for good urban space.

anon said...

I think it is spelled Ratskeller!

Alex said...

I believe 'ratskeller' is the standard high german spelling, but the old or colloquial 'rathskeller' is frequently used, the concept itself being rather old and colloquial (very few city councils retain their own pub these days).