28.4.15

Reading the Highland Villager #129

[Villagers in spring.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.] 


Headline: HDC, residents find Johnson Bros. project too tall for old U. S. Bank site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An empty lot by the river in the far southwest corner of the city might become a six-story building, but neighbors and environmentalists are upset about the height.  The building requires a variance. [Note: this was approved in the Planning Commission meeting, that I missed.] "Underlying bedrock makes underground parking impossible." There will be a 290-space parking ramp, a dog run, and "other amenities." Residents of a nearby apartment building are concerned the new apartment building will block their view of the river valley. There might be a "neighborhood cafe." One neighbor says the developers are "greedy" while another says the height creates "sort of an entitlement." [The city council will likely get involved in this.]


Headline: Historic status envisioned for five stone houses on West End
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some old houses made of limestone and other old things like that that date back to the 1860s and 70s might get historic status in the form of "a historic district." Nobody seems upset by the idea. Article includes quote from city historic preservation person: "This is the first time we'd be doing a designation of this kind," meaning a district and not simply "register"-level designation. Back then, "limestone was plentiful and strong." [In two years one of these buildings will be a brewery.]


Headline: Neighbors air concerns over RockTenn
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The big recycling plant in the Midway smells worse and is louder than it used to be, according to people nearby. Nobody is quite sure why. One quote describes it as "a constant hum or helicopter-like sound." Another says "wet paper," "like a floor finish," "like rotten eggs." [Wow. This is quite the sensory assortment. I heard that a huge amount of the upper Midwest's recycling goes through that plant. It certainly is large, but I've never smelled or heard anything too bad when I've gone past.] Best quote comes from CM Stark: "Conspiracy theories are interesting, but we're not that well-organized." [I think he's referring to the city launching some sort of massive industrial noise pollution/recycling mafia conspiracy, which given the helicopter sounds, might be incredibly devious, in a Mel Gibson kind of way. But he's certainly correct in thinking that Saint Paul is not that organized. I can vouch for that.]


Headline: Court ruling spurs call for protections against home teardowns
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A court ruling that permitted an old house to be torn down in crocus hill has made people even more concerned about other teardowns mostly in Ward 3 [aka Highland aka where most of the nicer homes are located in the city aka one of the parts that was built after WWII]. There's a new public group. One concern is lot splits and demolitions. Article includes some of the details about the crocus hill house, which dates back to the 20s. Crocus Hill is not a historic district. The owners want to tear the house down to build a handicapped-accessible house. [A lot of very wealthy people seem to be involved in this one, and one can imagine many legal fees as well.] Quote from home owner: "We're private people and this has been an unpleasant experience." There will be a public hearing on the issue this Friday. [I'll be there with my ears open.]

Headline: Stormy weather: road construction season returns with a vengeance [Stormy weather?]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Roads are under construction during the warm time just like happens every year. Quote from director of Public Works: "Everyone wants the streets fixed, but no one wants us to close them so that we can get work done." [Won't somebody think of the children?]


Headline: More wishing on this year's STAR funding
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Overview of projects for city grants and loans that compete with each other every year for a pot of money generated by a sales tax. Proposals include a circus school, mini-golf art project, an old brewery remodeling, and a senior housing project. [That about covers the whole spectrum of white people's desires, from birth to death.] There are other things too; it's a very long list. Developments, affordable housing projects, schools, homeless shelters...


Headline: Where Neighborhood STAR dollars really go
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: More on the above, detailing how much of the total STAR money is actually used for debt service. [Sounds shady!] Article includes quote from one of the STAR board members: "We do what we can with the resources we have." [Note: this is actually a great story about public policy and its challenges in St Paul!] Quote: "Although the use of sales tax funds to pay for debt service and other needs has been deemed legal by the city Attorney's office and helps balance the city budget, critics have said it flies in the face of the program's original intent to support neighborhood projects. [That's it in a nutshell, the fight for money between top-down City Hall decision makers and a community committee and more "democratic" processes, in the sense that the city's neighborhood groups and processes are actually democratic, which is a legitimate debate for sure. This is the best Villager story I've read in at least a year.]


Headline: Ramsey Hill residents question restoring two-sided parking
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Business owners would like to have people be able to park on both sides of streets in the Cathedral Hill area. [Fancy restaurants, mostly.] Neighbors are worried about overly-narrow streets, the hindrance of fire trucks, and "creating hazards for pedestrians and motorists." [Honest question: Why bring pedestrians into this?] Quote from neighbor on the fear of two-sided parking: "Listening to all of you, i should be in fear for my life." [Another obvious solution is parking meters on Selby.]


Headline: A lofty idea: creative types residing at brewery open doors for home tour, art crawl
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: People live in the old brewery now. Pictures included. Quote: "I have a spiral staircase leading to an airy loft space." [Well isn't that nice?]

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