Reading the Highland Villager #150

[Villagers lurking across the West St. Paul border.]
[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: Master plan unveiled for soccer stadium new Midway Center; $150M stadium would anchor new retail stores, offices, hotel
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old strip mall and vacant lots on a major streetcorner in the Midway will become a shiny soccer stadium and surrounding mixed-use complex of buildings, at least in theory. There were drawings shown to the public, along with lists of potential things such as "office buildings, hotels, retail stores, apartment buildings, new streets and several parks." The drawings were "met with excitement." The [very wealthy] soccer team owner would like to break ground this summer. The stadium will have "translucent plastic skin" [Like the robot in Ex Machina, I guess] that will [somehow] "block noise and light." It will cost $150M. [No public money! Read it and weep, Minneapolis.]  There will be new buildings where the strip mall, abandoned bank, vacant lot, and drive-thru fast food stores are currently located, and all of them will have retail on the first floor. It might take a long time for all this to happen. [I have heard that the the stadium is first, then the properties directly on the corner of Snelling and University are second, in order of development. Then probably the liquor store site.] There will be "two large privately owned parks." [That's an oxymoron, by the way.] Pedestrian crossings need to be built. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.

Headline: St. Paul seeks citywide participation in organized trash study
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wants to think about "organizing" people driving garbage trucks all over to pick up trash at every home in the city. [What an idea!] There's a survey. Currently lots of people just throw trash wherever. The garbage men are upset. [Stand up fellas. I am sure they have the best interests of the city and the environment at heart.] Currently people in Saint Paul pay more than people in other similar cities for to have people take away their trash. [See also my Minnpost article on the topic.]

Headline: Coming Clean: City awaits report on extent of pollution on 125-acre Ford site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Old abandoned car factory is polluted. The PCA is about to issue a report with details. Nobody knows how long it will take for Ford to clean up the property. [The key thing is that nobody knows whether Ford will clean it up to "residential" or "industrial" standards, which makes all the difference in terms of tax revenue for the city.] Article quotes city staff saying "Ford may have concerns about residential use on parts of the site." [This is like what happened at the old "Exxon oil tank" site off West 7th Street, where the company did not clean up the property to residential standards and so the city had to turn it into a park.] "Ford will always have some legal responsibility for the site" [which is why they are so testy about it]. It'll likely be a while until anyone really knows anything.

Headline: Met Council approves annual $556,620 [precise!] lease for stadium site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: In exchange for having a shiny translucent plastic soccer stadium on the vacant lot owned by the Met Council, the team will annually pay money to the agency. Some Council Members are worried that everything is being decided without Council approval. CM Noecker would like to block the city from using TIF or other subsidies.

Headline: Legislature returns for new session; Transportation funding, bonding bill will dominate debate
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: The Governor is asking the state for money for the city for the Kellogg/3rd bridge, a downtown homeless shelter, money for the zoo, and for the Science Museum.  The GOP likes roads and bridges, ostensibly to "alleviate traffic congestion." [Very conservative. Very thrifty. I'm sure long-term maintenance costs are not a problem at all.]

Headline: New Riverview transit line tops county's legislative wish list
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The county is asking the state for money for transit along West 7th Street, the details of which will be decided by the "late summer or early fall." They also want a new interchange for the 694 freeway at Rice Street, a youth treatment center, and snowmaking machines at an East Side park.

Headline: City lobbies for new Kellogg bridge, soccer stadium, facility for homeless
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is asking the state for money for the [aforementioned] bridge, the [aforementioned] homeless shelter, as well as permission for TIF districts at the [aforementioned] Ford site and property tax exemptions for the [aforementioned] soccer stadium. [$43M for the Kellogg/3rd bridge seems like a lot of money for a bridge that's a bit too wide as is regardless, and the excuse for replacing it a BRT transit project that seems a bit dicey at the moment because of Lake Elmo intransigence. Just sayin'. Still though it's nice to get state money, I only wish it was for things that better served the people who live in the city. Imagine what you could do with $43M... I bet you could build a small part of a downtown bike loop, construct part of a "grand round" trail, improve a few streetcorners and fix up an old theater, for example.] The city also wants passage of a transportation / transit funding bill [but that won't happen; see the odds from last year and add a zero to everything].

Headline: Ramsey County reviews report on future use of its ice arenas
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You can skate indoors but it's quite expensive. There was a study, but no real decisions were made.

Headline: Council allocates $1.5M for proposed Snelling Avenue medians; council working on design for project that would run from Randolph Ave. to Highland Parkway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Crossing Snelling Avenue [See also this bit of history.] will be easier now because you'll be able to stop in the middle. [It's long long long overdue.] The new median will be using the city's "8-80" money and will go from Randolph to Highland Parkway. MnDOT must still approve it. [They'd better. They should have built it themselves when they reconstructed the street!] The city will no longer be spending "8-80" money on [tearing down perfectly good two-story buildings to] widen the Randolph-Lexington intersection for cars [which would have truly caused Gil PeƱalosa's head to explode with semantic insanity, methinks. It's good we're not doing that, because I like him]. [And now we wait for the gigantic state agency.] Neighbors were concerned about walkability and safety.

Headline: City Council OKs plan to restore evening parking on University; But it agrees to leave out that stretch of University from Prior to Aldine Street to allow room for bicycles to share the right lane
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You'll be able to park your cars on University Avenue again but only in certain places and only at night. Gigantic sharrows will be painted on the street under the railroad bridge by the big box hardware store. [I'm sure larger-than-normal sharrows will change driver behavior.] Car traffic on the street is not as high as it was before the light rail train was built.

Headline: Handicap space sought for historic stone house
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old building that will be a brewery needs to have a spaced for disabled people to park cars in the alley behind the building. Neighbors are concerned about parking and safety. [They didn't have cars in 1859, but they did have disabled people.]

Headline: Historic Hague Ave. church will be razed to make way for preschool; Plans for day care center altered to reduce footprint, add second story
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An abandoned church will be torn down and replaced with a day care center that was originally supposed to be one-story but will now be two-stories. Kids will speak Spanish and English there. Some neighbors like it because they like kids, others did not because they like old buildings. There will be landscaping. Neighbors are concerned about parking.

Headline: Denied drive-through service, CVS will open at Grand-Fairview anyway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An abandoned Whole Foods grocery store will soon be a CVS store but without a drive-thru along the sidewalk after the City Council decided to deny the variance for the drive-thru. [Highlight of the piece by far is this...] Article quotes from testimony during the Council hearing: "Planning Commissioner Bill Lindeke [that's me!] said there is some interest on the part of his colleagues to consider banning new drive-throughs in St. Paul." [Did I say that? That certainly was not my main point. I might have said this, but I did not mean to say exactly this, if I did. I might have meant to say that the Commission has considered limiting drive-throughs because of their negative impact on walkability, and I certainly said that Minneapolis was planning on doing so in all of its pedestrian overlay districts, which are the equivalent to Saint Paul's "traditional neighborhood" districts, sort of. Regardless, I said something, and this is the first time that the Highland Villager has explicitly quoted me in an article, so that's something I guess. It's a bit weird though, weirder than the time my knee appeared on the front page.] The new non-drive-thru CVS will have trucks delivering things to it. Neighbors are concerned about building design and walkability. Article quotes bike guy who would like to see another grocery store there.

Headline: Jackson St. rebuilding cost doubles
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A downtown street that is being reconstructed will cost a lot of money, more than people thought at first. The increase is because of gas, water and electrical upgrades, and a "leap in construction costs." [Not that informative of a quote really.] The street will also have bike lanes and nice sidewalks.

Headline: BZA to review new plan for eight-unit condo at 1174 Grand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Developers want to build a condo on Grand Avenue and are making it slightly shorter because the first plan was rejected by people who thought it was too tall. [The neighboring buildings on either side are just about the same height even though they don't have indoor parking and this one does.] Article quotes the developer saying that the city's comprehensive plan calls for more density. [This is true.] Article quotes developer: "it's been difficult, I'm not going to lie." [This is exactly the kind of "missing middle" development that many people would like to see more of, only here it was fought vehemently, which might tend to discourage such attempts in the future methinks.] Neighbors are concerned about parking and sunlight.

PS. I read the Highland Villager this fortnight while listening to Verdi's La Traviata, with the recitative translated into German for some reason. I like Verdi very much!

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