Reading the Highland Villager #130


[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. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]  



Headline: Six-story Shepard road project get height variance; Neighbors say apartment building is too tall for river site

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: A new building planned for the far southwest edge of town is 18.5’ too tall for its zoning code, but received a variance from the Planning Commission. Neighbors are appealing the variance to the City council on the grounds that it is too close to the river valley to receive a variance for added height [The rationale there being that views of the river valley ought to be preserved, which is an odd concept to me given the huge amounts of development and transformation that have occurred in the river valley generally speaking, for example the airport, the freeway bridges, or the way in which the water level is artificially kept high through the locks and dams in order to maintain barge transportation. What is or is not considered “natural” is entirely artificial.] The proposed building will have 210 apartments and some mixed use components, and is the first part of a larger development on the end of West 7th and Shepard. The site is undergoing some zoning and regulatory changes which would make the proposed height acceptable with a conditional use permit. There are questions about whether the proposed building is mixed-use, if only about 1% of the space is “retail” or “offices.” Strict requirements about what is or is not mixed-use do not currently exist. [That should probably exist. Getting some actual retail in this area would be a nice change, given the existing homogeneity.]


Headline: Commission OKs plan for four-story redevelopment in Highland Village [Q: Is ‘Highland Village’ a well-defined geographic concept? Like where does it start and end? If you try to leave does 'Rover' come chase you down?]

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: Plans to transform a building that used to be an [Edina] realty office into a 4-story mixed-use apartment building were approved by the Planning Commission. There will be 109 parking spaces. [More than is required by cit y code, a truly Highland thing to do.] Article includes quote from a commissioner that development like this is “legal” and that “the city has taken a position in its comprehensive plan that it supports greater density on transit corridors such as Cleveland.” [That sounds entirely too reasonable.] There are three petitions in opposition to the building. Quotes from neighbors include: “The project really doesn’t fit into the neighborhood; it’s just not common sense” and “This will erode the quality of life.”


Headline: Ford site planning meeting held

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: There will be [was] a meeting abut bike and transit plans for the Ford plant site.


TCS: Headline: Study of highway.5/Shepard Road now in motion; possible realignment prompted by traffic, area developments

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: The city had a meeting about a study they are doing that would try to re-direct through traffic along the unpeople’d Shepard Road instead of the [relatively] dense populated West 7th area. CM Tolbert would like to see “a solid public-based study to guide any future decisions.” Nobody knows how much anything would cost, whether it would work, or who would pay for it. [Preliminary results from the study show that West 7th carries a surprisingly small amount of ‘through’ traffic, so that only about 25% or so of the total would be removed if a more direct connection was made to Shepard and 35E. I think most engineers and planners would have estimated a higher amount than that.]


Headline: Task forces rank plethora of proejcts seeking CIB dollars

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: [All the things in Saint Paul are pitted against each other in a Darwinian struggle to the death: falling down bridge vs. rec center playground vs. bike path vs. fire station improvements…. FIGHT!]



Headline: Starbucks proposed for vacant lot at Marshall and Snelling; Coffee shop; S drive-thru lanes disappoint Merriam Park committee members

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: There are plans to build a coffee shop in a vacant lot at a key corner [in an currently almost unwalkable but potentially walkable area]. It will be one story and have drive thru lanes. Article includes quote from neighborhood group: “I hate the idea of a drive-thru,” and “it would be a traffic nightmare.” [See also.] Curb cuts are an issue. The Starbucks would move here from the Snelby corner, where it currently exists. [This is kind of like the way in which the Walgreens is moving across the street downtown.] Article includes some descriptions of how people could drive around with their coffee. [Just park your car and get out of your car and walk in and get your coffee and then walk out and get back in your car with your coffee and drive with your coffee. Free idea: they should build a building that looks like the “freight house” Dunn Brothers, with only 4 parking spaces and 19th century bricks.] Any drive-thru would need a variance and a conditional use permit. [Hm.]



Headline: Midway Center owner considers smaller-scale redevelopment; High cost of new streets, parking ramps and parks waylays ambitious plan to redevelop all 35 acres

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: The plans to redevelop the [horribly ugly and empty] parking lots and strip malls at Snelling University by set of building a mixed-use buildings and re-integrating the street grid are more epxensive than originally hoped [because of a $40M parking ramp, even though the site right next to two of the region’s largest transit projects] so the property owner is considering only re-developing part of the site. The smaller portion would be where the one-story strip mall with the liquor store is currently. Earlier plans to move a Walgreens [See also the rother moving Walgreens] into an old bank are mysteriously missing. The Met Council is involved because they own a parcel by the freeway.



Headline: Work begins on Minnehaha in Mpls,

Author: Kevin Driscoll


Short short version: [Meanwhile, in some city to the West…] A street [that might have had a protected bike lane but won’t] will be reconstructed in four-block segments. It will have bike lanes. Businesses are worried about construction. [It’s really weird to read a Villager article about bike lanes and street construction and small businesses and parking taking place in a city that actually supports bike lanes, bicycling, and walking. It kind of takes all the sturm und drang out of the experience.]



Headline: St. Paulites weigh in on new residential design standards; Teardown controversy comes to a head with May 8 public hearing

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: First sentence: “Years of cuts to historic preservation budgest and a lack of attention to the city’s historic resources have set the stage for the current controversy over residential teardowns in St. Paul, according to preservation advocates.” [This is sort of weird to me because I thought teardowns were mostly about economics, and changing tastes in housing styles and sizes. Which preservation budget are they referring to here?] Aritlce is about the proposed design standards that are meant to counteract the “teardown” trend in the southwest part of the city that has seen houses being torn down and replaced with larger houses in nice neighborhoods. The design standards, which would be applied citywide, would control setbacks and height relative to nearby properties, and “reduce the maximum coverage of homes and other structures on a residential lot.” People in neighborhood groups are worried that they don’t understand the implications of the new standards because fo the fast timeline [as am I]. There is a new group that has formed called “Save Our St. Paul Neighborhoods” [or SOSPN]. There is discussion of historic districts and conservation districts. Article includes interesting detail: “Between 1996 and 2005, onlky one St. Paul property – the building that housed the former Coney Island bar and restaurant in downtown – was designated historic.” [Entirely inaccurate to say that the Original Coney island is a “former… bar and restaurant.” They still exist; they are still “open”; I had a hot dog there last year. It’s just that their hours are a bit infrequent…]



Headline: Council finds Grand Ave. house can no longer be used as student rental

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: A house that was previously rented to students for 10 years will not longer be allowed to be rented to students because the owners did not file paperwork. The house is very close to existing student rental houses. [Students are not a protected class,” so it’s OK to discriminate against them without shame or feeligns of guilt.] Article includes quote: “to me, only the most absentee of absentee landlords can claim ignorance of the law.”  [Oh well, sucks to be those people. Also, it sucks to be a student in Saint Paul paying high rent because of an ordinance that doesn’t really solve the problem of bad behavior. Shouldn’t students be living on Grand Avenue?]



Headline: St. Paul stiffens sanctions against stores that violate business license

Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: Conveince stores who aren’t selling smokes correctly will now be uanlbe to re-open under the license of a family member. [OR something.] The city is struggling to come up with ways to penalize corner stores that break the law and sell smokes to minors. They’re trying to be creative about it.



Headline: A cup of joe and a community’s trust; Corner Drug’s soda fountain is refurbished in wake of an accident bu the coffee is still just a nickel

Author: James McKenzie


Short short version: A [very cool] pharmacy where you can still buy coffee for a nickel that had a car drive into the side of it [off of the very busy and poorly deisgned Mn-DOT road, Snelling Avenue] is up and running again. [See also.] Article includes many charming and nostalgiac details about the history of the business. Article includes the statement: “Computer technology has changed exponentially since the 1980s.”



Headline: Off the beaten path; West End woman assembles pieces needed to turn an unslightly stretch along I-24E into a thing of beauty

Author: Larry Englund


Short short version: A gardener is trying to landscape and improve the [weird and unsightly] 35E bike path along the freeway sound wall by planting trees, perennails, vines, and grasses. Article includes detail: “there were lots of (homeless) encampments.”




PT said...

I'm really baffled by the uproar to the whole tear down thing. So many positives about the whole situation. People investing in St Paul...Improved destiny (assuming bigger means more people)...higher taxes base...so many houses need to get torn down (I type this staring out the window at a potential future tear down next door).

The place that got torn down on James sold for $200k. How crappy does a place have to be to sell for $200k in this neighborhood.

Wonder how much some of the bigger houses over by UST that are now rentals are screwing up the supply and demand for bigger houses in the area.

Nice work appreciate your perspectives despite the differences. #SaveRayandJoe

PT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justine Lee said...

Hi Jane,

Can you contact me/ Having a hard time reaching out via Villager and watned to discuss 1623 James (my house) for an article.