3.5.17

Reading the Highland Villager #180

[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: Commission rejects site plan for 6-story building at St. Clair and Snelling aves.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer proposed a six-story [pretty sure it was five-story?] building on Snelling at Saint Clair Avenue where some vacant properties and old strip malls were located. The Planning Commission voted to rezone the property to TN3 zoning, which allows a by-right height of 55', but denied the site plan and conditional use permit for the proposed development. Article cites the Commission head as saying that the proposal was lacking in specific design goals. A local neighborhood group committee had supported the project. Neighbors were concerned about traffic, parking, the blotting out of the "natural light," and the lack of mixed-use in the building. [Only a tiny part of the first-floor, 1800 sq ft, was for retail, which actually sparked a legitimate debate about the definition of mixed-use and whether there should be a minimum percentage of retail in order to qualify as a mixed-use building in the first place. Note that article takes great pains to avoid any mention of yours truly, despite my central place in the zoning committee conversation... which is fine. It would be weird to see myself in the Villager anyway in any way other than just my kneecap form. For example, as the summary points out, I objected to the way that the building ignored the TN zoning design guidelines which explicitly call for parking to be placed at the rear of a building, and not along the street front. There was also the ironic requirement of windows along the first floor street fa├žade and the fact that these windows would be opening up and revealing a parking lot instead of any actual legitimate human interior.] The project's traffic study had not been signed by a registered traffic engineer, for some reason. The developer made several revisions based on neighborhood concerns. Many people testified. [Now that the full Commission has voted on this, I can share my perspective. I voted against the project primarily because it was not mixed-use enough, not because it was too large or did not fit with the "character" of the area. The Commission recommended the rezoning to TN3 (vs. TN2), which gives a sense of whether or not they felt that the project was too big. I voted against it because it did not create a walkable enough environment and I believe we can expect more of development in Saint Paul along a corridor with a great deal of transit investment, existing diversity and density, and walkability potential. I am hopeful another project will come forward that meets the goals and design guidelines that Saint Paul and this neighborhood have put in place.] Quote from neighbor: "This is an apartment building on top of a parking ramp." [Also note that the developer has found out that there's something strange about the water table which prohibits them from creating a below-ground parking ramp of any size. Very strange! Why is the water table so high here? It's not a low elevation part of the city...]


Headline: Commission questions citywide benefit of Ford site plans
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A committee of the Planning Commission has met to think about the city master plan for the old Ford truck factory in Highland. Commissioners seem to be emphasizing city-wide (as opposed to local) priorities when thinking about the plan, for example the creation of jobs. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking (NACATAP). There is a petition about how traffic is bad. Article describes the plans in a rough way. Quote: "single-family housing is not being proposed because of the high costs of development...". [WHY NO AMERICAN DREAM CITY OF SAINT PAUL?] A city staffer would like to see more affordable housing. Some commissioners have questioned the status of the ball fields [which have been *assured* for Highland, or so I am told by the 1950s Villager headline]. There will be a storm water feature, according to the plan. There will be more meetings.


Headline: City clear-cuts quarter mile of Mount Curve in advance of repaving project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Sick trees had to be cut down on a fancy street. Article includes photo of neighbors walking a black lab and counting the rings of a stump. There were 90 rings. Quote from neighbor: "They just came and clear-cut the street." [So what happened is that there's this invasive insect that eats and kills the trees that were cut down. It's been in the news. It's called an "ash borer" and it bores and it might be boring for people to read about. (Keep Saint Paul Boring... har har.)]


Headline: City pressures private haulers for pact; Council pursues a plan for putting trash collection out for bids while negotiations continue
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wants to "organize" trash collection [for a ton of good reasons]. It has been trying to get the garbage companies to come up with a plan for how to allocate trash turf, but they have been extremely reluctant. So the city is coming up with a plan it can use in case the garbage men fail. [Good leverage!] Quote from one garbage company person: "Befuddled." Another: "frustrated as hell." [Please note that a group of garbage companies has spent a lot of money to build a garbage website urging city voters to reject the organization efforts. This fancy new website will surely accomplish nothing because practical common sense is overwhelmingly on the  side of supporting an organized system.] Negotiations continue, but there are sticking points about how many contracts will be issued and labor rights. [Unions! Scary!] Quote from article: "Haulers say they feel squeezed by the city's negotiators, who do not seem to realize their need to make a profit. ... The smaller haulers are more wiling than the larger ones to sign the labor peace agreement... that issue may be the one that prevents the two sides from ever reaching an agreement." [If you can't have a labor-friendly contract drawn up in Saint Paul, where can you have a labor friendly environment?]


Headline: SPA center part of $38M expansion, renovation
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A fancy private high school is building a new building and tearing down part of an old building.


Headline: Linwood-Monroe Arts Plus expansion to proceed as planned; City Council upholds variances for $21M in improvements to Summit Hill school
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A school in a nice neighborhood will be allowed to expand its building as the City Council refused to overturn the Board of Zoning Appeals decision not to overturn the original approval by the Planning Commission. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking and the loss of green space. Council Members wanted the "two sides to resolve their differences." [By accident, I was at this Council meeting and it was intense. The chambers were packed and dozens of people testified on each side. The "pro-expansion" side brought in disabled kids in wheelchairs; the "anti-expansion" side had lots of architectural diagrams and head-shaking neighbors. It was intense and I pity any Council Member having to vote on the issue. But still you can't vote against a disabled kid in a wheelchair, no matter how many upstanding citizens you bring to the table, and the Council didn't...] Quote from the article: "what the neighbors oppose is ... how the project would alter the character of the neighborhood." People were upset about the process that the school district employed. [The school administrator at the meeting talked forever on and on and I couldn't make sense of a word he was saying, TBH.]


Headline: Residents seek safer Dale Street bridge
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [There's a really really really shitty bridge with tiny sidewalks over the freeway that was designed and built in the early 1960s when the city was destroying the heart of Saint Paul and especially the black neighborhoods and it hasn't been fixed yet. The whole thing is criminal.] The city is studying how to improve the Dale Street bridge over 94. There was a meeting to review concepts. Article includes traffic counts for cars.


Headline: More apartments planned at Grand-Finn
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build an apartment building on Grand Avenue near the University of Saint Thomas. It will be four stories and have eight units.There was a moratorium on zoning changes to the street. Quote from the article: "Though [the] latest proposal has not met with the vehement opposition his past projects have faced, neighbors have expressed some concerns." [What are they? Do tell! The article doesn't say. I guess we'll find out. #NACATAP] There will be "ample bicycle parking."


Headline: St. Paul asks Citizens League to study payment in lieu of tax
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The way the city was funding street maintenance turned out to be illegal so they city has asked a non-profit group to figure out how to beg non-profit groups for money.] The budget hole is $32M annually.


Headline: St. Paul to present plans to replace Jimmy Lee play area
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A rec center is replacing its playground.


Headline: Relocated Lulu's to receive $60,000 in city assistance
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A deli on Selby Avenue had to move out due to rising rents and will get some money to move to St. Clair Avenue instead. [Good news. Lulu's was awesome. Good falafel, and a key cog in the Saint Paul "hummus district". See also, my first (and only) long-form radio documentary back in 2004 (!) about street corners in Saint Paul which covered this very business.]


Headline: County receives proposal for old jail, West site in downtown
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A vacant parcel of prime real estate got a suitor after the County spent a lot of money to demolish it. It might be a hotel and also offices and housing. [I once heard a story about the jail, which looked right onto the river and the Wabasha Bridge: girlfriends or partners of the inmates who had these sweet river-view cells would go onto the Wabasha Bridge and flash their incarcerated horny partners on a regular basis. See also, Wofile's great tour of the old jail before it was torn down. #inmatesImtimates]

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