Reading the Highland Villager #172

[An unknown cat seeks refuge in a Villager.]
[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: Public weights in on city's plan for redeveloping old Ford Plant site; Housing density and traffic are big concerns
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is working on the plan for what to do with the large area by the river and "Highland Village" that used to be a Ford car and truck factory. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, building height, and building design. Quote from neighbor: "In my neighborhood there is just disbelief." The plans call for developing the 130+ acres of land into a network of streets and buildings of different scale set around a daylighted stream. Another neighbor is quoted saying "I think traffic is going to be the Achilles heel for the Ford site plan." [Wouldn't it be cool if when people said they were worried about traffic they actually meant "speeding cars" and "pedestrian safety" instead of being stuck in traffic and not being able to drive fast enough?] The traffic projections in the city plan call for a significant mode share for transit and claims that many existing streets are underused. [This is true, believe it or not, especially one like Saint Paul Avenue. Also the Riverview corridor transit proposal is intimately connected to this conversation.] Some neighbors want more green space. [It kinds of reminds me of density concerns such as the ones that came out of the John B. Calhoun rat experiments.] If the plan works Saint Paul will increase its tax base by more than $20 million annually. [Well that's important, isn't it?]

Headline: City's Capitol lobbyists get marching orders [I like this headline, probably because I like the image of lobbyists actually marching.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The state legislature is meeting in Saint Paul again, like they do every year. [And not paying any property taxes for the space that they use, of course.]  The city will ask the state for tax exemptions for the soccer stadium and more [well deserved] local government aid funding [both of which they already passed but the change got nixed because of a clerical error by state lawyers or someone like that].  23% of Saint Paul's city budget is LGA from the state. [That's really high ratio, much higher than Minneapolis. If it goes away should, for example, a Republican win the Governor's race, Saint Paul will be immensely screwed.] The city would like a transportation funding bill passed. [That has zero chance of happening.] Bridges are falling down and the city would like $43 million to replace the Kellogg/3rd bridge, for example. [The existing bridge is currently 2-inbound and 1-outbound lane wide for some reason, one of two mindbogglingly asymmetrical bridges in and out of downtown.] The city would like the ability to officially and legally levy its controversial "right-of-way fee". [This too seems very unlikely with a GOP controlled legislature that ran on an explicit anti-urban platform.] There's a bunch of other smaller stuff listed too, including a environmental center by Crosby lake and a state rule change allowing city-control over speed limits. [Well that's one of my favorite ideas! I was just in Utah, North and South Dakota and all of those states have 25 or even 20 miles per hour speed limits within cities. It's impossible for me to believe that it wouldn't make a difference toward improving safety along urban streets.]

Headline: Transportation projects top county's wish list
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Just like the above piece only for Ramsey County. They would like over $20 million dollars for a new freeway interchange at Rice and 694. [How about a road diet on the rest of Rice Street, you know the part where all the kids, people of color, and disabled people live that has been killing and injuring people for decades? I wish Ramsey County priorities would be more focused on pedestrian safety instead of increasing car throughput.] There is also a BRT transit project heading North to Forest Lake [better than nothing I suppose] and funding for a homeless shelter.

Headline: Conleys plan to renovate vacant downtown, Snell-Ham buildings [WOW! A real non-ironical use of "Snell-Ham". Let's not let this happen again, shall we?]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people who own old buildings want to fix them up. Article includes some history of the buildings. They will be mixed-use apartments and retail, hopefully. There need to be some zoning changes. [If any neighbors are concerned, it is not mentioned here!]

Headline: BZA grants variance for garage, woodworking shop in Highland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A couple can build a garage and woodworking shop behind their home if it's not too ugly and they take care of the gutters. Neighbors are concerned about the size of the garage and whether or not trees will be cut down.

Headline: Riverview study opens new year eyeing six alternatives for transit
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Hopefully a committee will make a decision by June or July about which of the many route and mode possibilities that are on the table for a new transit investment along West 7th is the best one. [Note: I am on the Technical Advisory Committee for this project and have been impressed at the wide range of choices available. I am really disappointed in the community backlash to a proposal that is just one of many proposals and hope people can keep an open mind about a potential investment that would greatly improve the lives of many poor and transit-dependent people who live in this part of Saint Paul, not to mention the potential for sustainable urban development in a city that could really use it, not to mention the potential for improving pedestrian safety on a major deadly street.] The article lists the many choices including BRT, streetcar, LRT, and on- and off- the CP rail spur or West 7th itself in two-way or one-way pairings, through or not through the Ford site. [I'll be very curious to see the rough cost and ridership estimates. The run-time estimates for the different routes were eye-opening. The CP spur does surprisingly well because it can go slightly faster and the Ford site route adds about 12-20 minutes to the overall runtime which seems quite reasonable to me considering all the extra stops it will be making.] Engineers are concerned about geology. Neighbors are concerned about parking.

Headline: New rules for outdoor sales considered
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council may approve regulation changes that owuld allow businesses to display and sell things on the sidewalk. [Many stores, such as antique stores, already do this anyway and it's awesome and adds a lot of vitality and interest to the street as long as people can get through. See this example.] Nobody seems very concerned.

Headline: St. Paul seeks funds reo study replacement of RiverCentre ramp
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A huge expensive parking lot is falling down and it will cost $1 million just to figure out what to do about it. The ramp is from the 70s and has 5 years left to life. The ramp generates about $2 million per year and will cost $50 million to replace. [So do the math and you have a 25 years to pay for itself, only the convention center gets the money and the city or some government agency will likely pay for the ramp, so this is pretty much a convention center subsidy, just another of the many ways that our governments invisibly subsidize driving and parking, no?] Some people hope the state will chip in for the cost. [They should, I reckon, as things like the Science Museum, the Wild arena, and the cat show are of statewide importance.]

Headline: With shift in TIF, city allocates $7M for stadium infrastructure
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved a shift in its TIF funding district to build some sort of "public infrastructure" around the new soccer stadium. [What kind of infrastructure? The article does not say. Perhaps some parking lots? Let's hope not.]

Headline: DNR publishes new rules for development on Mississippi
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Department of Natural Resources has some new rules that affect how close you can build buildings to slopes and bluffs. [That has a huge impact on the city especially in places like the West Side, where I live. Hopefully the rules are not too restrictive for the urban areas of the river, and allows traditional types of urban density along the river.]

Headline: Latest appointments fill all 21 seats on Planning Commission
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some new people are on the Planning Commission now. [I'm on this. See below.]

Headline: City committee recommends new median for Snelling Ave.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Transportation Committee [which I chair] recommended approval for the proposed median on Snelling Avenue between Randolph and Ford Parkway. It will close some intersections and add turn lanes to others while making it easier for people to cross the street on foot. Mn-DOT and the City are paying the $2 million cost. [A no brainer, IMO. Snelling has long been dangerous for anyone walking around, and crossing it often involves taking ones life into ones hands. We really need this to happen between Summit and Selby as well.]

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