Reading the Highland Villager #19 (July 7 - 20 Edition)

[Basically, the problem is that the best source of local streets & sidewalks news in Saint Paul is the Highland Villager. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Total # of articles about sidewalks: 6
Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure: 5

Title: Chicago firm is awarded contract to build St. Paul portion of Central Corridor light rail; $205.1 million bid comes in below estimated cost.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You've probably already seen this, but some company named "Walsh Construction" is going to be doing the work on the stretch of the LRT from DT StP all the way to the Mpls border. Good news? The project came in almost $50M under the target budget. Construction begins immediately. [I am amazed how gradually this whole project was approved. There was never a moment when the Federal or Local gov't announced, "Yes, the CCLRT is approved." Rather, there were a series of tiny and imperceptible clearings of hurdles, where the project received this tiny bit of approval or went forward through some committee or this report came out, or whatever. It's strange seeing bureaucracy inaction in action. -Ed.]

Title: With financing OK'd, work will begin soon on Carondelet Village; $60.4M project will give highland 259 new units of senior housing by 2012
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Report on a new senior housing project at the corner of Randolph and Fairview for old Cathoics and Presbeteryians, funded with a bunch of TIF money from the city.

Title: Univeristy businesses get a break; forgiveable loans help in replacing lost parking
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council has $1.3M in loans to businsses along University Ave. to help build off-street parking lots to make up for the loss of on-street meters due to LRT construction. The loans are interest-free, and would be forgiven if the lots are "maintained for seven years." [Q: How many parking lots does $1.3 M buy you? A: Not many. -Ed.] The only catch appears to be that construction needs to get going very quickly. [Also, there is an example of where a mixed-use developments were meant to go in, but instead a surface parking lot will be built. For example, the corner of University and St Albans. Does this city really need more surface parking lots? -Ed.]

Title: St Paul gets to work rezoning land along Central Corridor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: This great article for planning wonks details how the Planning Commission is struggling to come up with a new zoning code for along the LRT line. The current designation of "TN" or "Traditional Neighborhood" doesn't allow for enough density for the street, capping out building heights at 55 feet. The commission may raise that with a new TN code that allows for 150 foot buildings. Two other potential problems: conflict b/w office space along University and the mostly vacant office buildings in DT StP, and concerns about whether or not "auto-oriented" businesses [e.g. drive through chain thingies, car repair thingies] will be allowed on the street in any capacity. [Currently, the street is riddled with drive-thorugh chain thingies and car repair thingies. -Ed.]

Title: Hopes for home improvement store kept alive in Midway; RK Midway and neighbors still taling compromise on 4.5-acre development
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The latest in the [ridiculous] saga of the potential Home Depot/Lowe's that is slated for the old Snelling bus garage site at Snelling and Univesity. The developer is holding out for a tall sign, but neighbors and the city council don't want it. At the moment, the City Council is split along its usual pro-business v. pro-citizen lines, with Members Bostrom, Harris, and Helgen in favor of letting the company and devleopers do whatever they want, and Members Carter, Lantry, Thune, and Stark likely to side with the neighborhood groups.
[Honestly, as if this building is not going to be built if they can't have an extra 30 feet in height for their sign? The City Council should stick to their guns. The developer will cave and build the store anyway. -Ed.]

Title: Group makes energy innovation central to light rail line
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: Really interesting piece on the potential for a district energy system being built along University Avenue that would link up the waste heat from the huge Rock-Tenn facility with a bunch of the buildings along University Avenue. [Really, really good idea! -Ed.]
Added bonus: photo of the top of the [godawful] Spruce Tree Center, which now has solar panels on its rooftop. I guess anything's worth a try to "spruce up" that ugly and empty building?

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