Reading the Highland Villager #148

[I found this fortnight's Highland Villager waiting on my bus seat.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.] 

Headline: Businesses seek to expand Grand Old Day to 2 days; Sidewalk sales, two live stages would be featured on Saturday
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) [of anti-parking meter fame] has proposed to double the length of the "Grand Old Day" (GOD) annual street party that takes place every summer. They would add "sidewalk sales" and "live music" on Saturday in addition to the traditional Sunday street closing. There was a meeting at the neighborhood group to discuss the matter last week. Article includes some details about GOD and its history. Cars will still be allowed on the Saturday. [Honestly, it seems fine to me. Who doesn't like sidewalk sales? I only wish there had been more sanity about the parking meter issue, which is about making some tradeoffs between improving business and the ease of use of the street for customers and neighbors, believe it or not.] GABA would also like to extend the street closure to Dale and Prior, and to extend the hours of beer and music [along with parking, the neighbors' least favorite part of the festival, but surely the most lucrative to many entertainment establishments]. Neighbors are upset, particularly about the liquor service. Quote from concerned neighborhood group woman: "Some of the behavior we've seen isn't good for the neighborhood." [Surely an understatement.] Another quote from a neighborhood group guy: "We're not a festival grounds." Quote from GABA guy: "Adding Saturday makes for a more robust event and allows the businesses to take advantage of what's going on on the avenue the next day." GABA guy also says "he spent more than $10,000 fighting the parking meters", and they could use the money. [A reality-based parking policy also makes for a more robust avenue. Also, one of the big arguments against the meters was that it was a "money grab" by the city, so this is ironic. Also also, the coming of the Apple store will mark the beginning of the parking apocalypse, one of the sure signs of the four horsemen that leave great swaths of destroyed parking in their wake.]

Headline: Stadium task forces await detailed plans
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The community advisory committee and the members of the public who showed up to the community meting are still waiting for details about what the redevelopment and stadium at University and Snelling are going to look like. There are "general concepts." The Committee timeline may be extended. The soccer team wants to break ground in May, but they need legislative approval. Article include some detail about the Committee membership. Quote from a Met Council member: "It's important for the public to be able to weigh in from time to time." Quote from developer architect: "We envision Snelling as the front door." [Too bad the street is still borderline unwalkable, despite just being reconstructed at great cost.] The stadium will have a partial roof.

Headline: News of pending redevelopment is hurting Midway businesses
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Discussion of redeveloping the strip mall by the planned stadium, including the bowling alley, "has not done the businesses any favors." Quote from business owner: Customers have been calling to ask if they are still open." Article includes detail about parcel ownership. [Sounds like something of a mess.] There is a Chinese restaurant there that already had to move for the TCF stadium and might have to move again for this one, if they can afford it. The [drive-thru-dependent] Mcdonalds guy says "We'll see if we can make it through this." [What will this world come to if we can't drive through and get a McDonalds hamburger in an empty parking lot at this corner? The neighborhood will not be the same. But more importantly, what will become of the bowling alley? Maybe a hybrid soccer/bowling pitch?]

Headline: City is rewriting zoning rules for congregate living facilities; Merriam Park group seeks longer minimum distance between sober houses
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is studying changing the zoning rules for "congregate living facilities" to allow them to be redefined and streamlined from a regulation perspective. These include sober houses, rooming houses, nursing homes, foster homes, etc. The rules haven't been changed since 1991. There are a lot of categories, 19 all in all. New regulations would reduce that number. A group of people from the Merriam Park neighborhood are concerned about noise, traffic, and parking, and   would like the distance requirement for sober houses increased to about .2 miles. They say there are too many sober houses concentrated in their neighborhood, in addition to student rentals. Some Planning Commissioners were skeptical about the need to increase the requirements about sober houses. Article includes some historical context about the deinstitutionalization of mental health issues in the 1980s. [Good information to have in there!] Sober houses are protected by the ADA.

Headline: Oppidan unveils plan to replace Novick's station on Snelling; Firm also expresses desire to redevelop nearly entire block
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An abandoned gas station / auto repair shop and house next-door will likely be torn down for a one-story commercial building. [Is this the place where a friend of mine wanted to open his taproom/brewery? Well, if it's going to be torn down, why not two-stories, at least? Jeez. Come on Saint Paul. Snelling is a major urban street and transit corridor.] The neighborhood group has no official position on the change, but are concerned about traffic and parking. [It says it's zoned "for commercial use?" Is it a traditional neighborhood zoning here? If not, why not? Apparently they are not.] Developer claims it will be a "destination business." [Apple store apocalypse?] The developer mentions redeveloping the rest of the block too, which includes a florist, a bakery, and a cleaners. The developer "had been considering a five-story building with ground-floor retail and four levels of apartments." [We need to change the zoning STAT.] The city is studying zoning here, but the study has no firm timeline. The nearby veterinarian is concerned about parking. [Dog parking?]

Headline: Mac-Goveland studying new ways to preserve its housing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group in the 3rd ward is looking at how to improve the recent changes to the teardown rules because they haven't been very effective. Neighbors are concerned that new houses are out of character with the neighborhood. Quote from a neighbor: we've been disturbed at the way that variances are being handed out like candy." [What kind of candy? Nerds? Rolo?] They would like fewer variances issued out. The board is considering a "conservation district" like the one which is being considered for "Tangletown." [I.e. the part where the streets curve slightly. and are "all named after colleges and Universities better than Macalester", as an alumni friend of mine once said.] 

Headline: Local projects to benefit from St. Paul maintenance budget
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city's Capital Improvement Budget is allocating some money to fix up a rec center retaining wall, elevators, a boiler, and the kitchen of a golf course.

Headline: Model Railroad Museum finds new home on Transfer Road
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Tiny trains will removed from Bandanna Square to a place just south of the former Amtrak Depot. [Jolly good!] They use O-scale railroads [not-HO scale, as is commonly believed].

Headline: BZA approves sign variance for wine shop at Kowalski's
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A grocery store on Grand Avenue will get to add signs for its new wine store. The word "wine" will be 30" high. Because the signs are along Ayd Mill Road, nobody is upset. [No wine whining.]

Headline: Brownfield grants to help clean up three area projects
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Met Council has given a grant to the city to clean up land near the vacant Lexington Library, and along Cleveland Avenue.

Headline: Getten may finally get ordinance allowing loan office in neighborhood
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A [strange] loan-giving place that moved from Snelling Avenue might finalyl get zoned to open an office in Highland. Zoning is tricky on this matter because it treats the loan giving place like a pawn shop.

Headline: Committee recommends restoring evening parking on University Avenue
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version:The Transportation Committee [where I am a member, BTW] recommended a plan to restore on-street parking to University Avenue in the evenings in places. There was a debate about whether to do so in the area between Aldine and Prior, but it was decided to keep the parking there too. Quote from one member: "the businesses do not need it or want it." Another quote: "there are concerns about safety at Dickerman Park," and thinks the parking would improve pedestrian safety. [She is right! The Planning Commission approved this unanimously, and it's going to City Council on Wednesday.]

[This fortnight's Highland Villager recap opera was Wagner's Das Rheingold.]

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