Reading the Highland Villager #195

[A stack of Villagers loitering by a pole.]
[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: City council commits $4 million more for infrastructure around new soccer stadium; latest outlay will pay for new streets, walks, drainage system
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is spending more money on infrastructure around Snelling and University where the soccer stadium is being constructed. CMs Bostrom, Noecker, and Prince voted against, including floating an amendment that would strip out $250K for the “great lawn”, a public/private park. The park will be mostly controlled by the soccer team. $2.3M is going to the stormwater management project. [Still waiting for the tax-paying development part of this to kick in…] There is a debate about whether to move the stoplight at Snelling and Spruce Tree Drive, but it is likely to happen.

Headline: Public debates the merits of streetcars on West 7th; supporters held sway at hearing that drew 200
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a public meeting about the proposed Riverview / West 7th streetcar and lots of people came. Article includes brief summary of the project, with “proponents outnumbering opponents.” [That goes contrary to every narrative about “neighborhood opposition” I have seen written or spoken anywhere. A good sign I reckon, for people like myself who support the plan’s potential.] Some people are concerned about existing businesses or pedestrian safety or future bike lanes or on-street parking. One guy would like it to serve the Ford site. The project might be done by 2027.

Headline: Organized trash will lower fees for some; new system could be operating by next fall
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: It took 14 months for the city to get an agreement with the garbage companies. CMs Bostrom and Prince voted against, because of “increased costs.” Costs will be something like $20-30 a month, depending on the size and frequency. [Seems reasonable to me. Have to include the collective savings for reduced road wear, which is a large unknown number.]

Headline: Pre-leasing begins for new tenants around soccer stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: New places are going into the old strip mall, the part that wasn’t torn down. [I want new buildings, and new office / retail / residential spaces in the old parking lots! Replacing a Radio Shack with another tenant isn’t what I was hoping for.]  Quote from owner: “the current L-shaped space on the eastern side with 20 active businesses will remain following the demolition of Rainbow, Walgreens, Home Choice and Big top Liquor.”

Headline: County seeks new proposals for jail, West site in downtown
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The County is still trying to develop the land right on the bluff by City Hall. The last project fell through when the County would not agree to subsidize a huge parking ramp. [Good for them, but we need something amazing here. It’s certainly worth waiting and doing it right.]

Headline: Hearing set on plans for senior housing at old Riverside site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An abandoned elementary school will become subsidized senior housing. It will also likely reconfigure Lexington Parkway [also mentioned in my recent West 7th ideas piece, now updated with a rendering!] where it meets West 7th, which is currently really dangerous. 

Headline: Mc-Grove rejects proposal to study student housing district
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group voted against extending the “student housing zoning overlay” to the area around Macalester. [I think the current policy should be evaluated before being expanded.] Some people are concerned about the increase of student rentals in their neighborhood. [One perverse impact of the overlay is that it will “push” students to live just outside the boundaries of it, no matter where you put the boundary. Treating students / young people with a default stigma is not that great of a thing to do, IMO.]

Headline: HRA agrees to sell Selby Ave. lots for mixed-use projects
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two city-owned Selby Avenue long-time vacant lots will become mixed-use senior housing and live-work retail.

Headline: St. Paul property owners brace for tax increases in 2018; but fist they may want to sound off to city, county, school district officials
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property taxes will go up. There will be meetings.

Headline: City eases rules for raising chickens; ordinance removes the required consent of neighbors for flocks of one to six hens
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You have to ask forgiveness rather than permission for having chickens now. The city maximum is 15 chickens. [That’s a lot of chickens!] CMs Tolbert, Prince and Bostrom wanted to keep the permission rules in place even for smaller numbers of chickens.

Headline: Downtown’s Pedro Park won’t be as large as supporters had hoped; city favors plan to sell police annex for use as ‘creative’ office space
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Land that had been earmarked for a park for a long time will now still be earmarked for a park but only one that’s half the size because the some people at the city do not want to tear down an old building that it owns but instead want to redevelop it instead. The new developer would pay for the new park, and there’s a proposal in place. The City Council voted 4-3 to sell the old building on the proposed park to a developer for an undisclosed amount that is more than $1.13M. The proposal for the building will be a mix of office and retail, as well as $650K to improve the remaining part of the park. [The original park budget was $30K.] CM Noecker, Prince, and Thao opposed the sale of the building. Some people think downtown needs new office space. [Q: how public will the new park be? Will it look like a park only for people in the new building, or will anyone be comfortable in it?] People who really liked the idea of the full half-block-size park are upset about the loss of half the proposed park. The park was originally proposed in 2009. Building the park would be expensive.  [As long as it doesn't continually play Mozart concerts out of a deadened empty stage in the hopes of keeping homeless people at bat, like they do over Mears for some reason.]

Headline: Variance denied new James Ave. home; contractor placed front of home closer to street than survey indicated
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new house that was built on James Avenue is almost a foot closer to the property line than is permitted. The home is 19.3’ from the property line, but code says it must be 20’ from the line. The Board of Zoning Appeals denied a [post-facto] variance. The contractor made a mistake, and admits it but wish that the city had said so sooner.Quote from neighbor: “this house is bigger than any other on the block. Standing in our front yards and looking up and down the block, the house will block the views.” The original home was once lived in by a young Charles Schultz. [Insert Charlie Brown “kite stuck in tree” joke.] Nobody knows what will happen next, but “tearing down part of the structure” is listed as an option. [This is an extremely Saint Paul moment, right here.]

Headline: St. Paul strengthens its efforts for dealing with vacant buildings
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: City inspectors will now be able to coax building owners to rehab vacant buildings a bit more easily because inspectors have tracked them more closely. Article includes lots of stories about vacant buildings, which come in three categories, and are mostly located in the East Side, North End, and Frogtown. Last year, about 40 vacant building were razed. [I remember this being a big thing in Minneapolis’ North Side as well.]

Headline: City, county adjust their proposals for leasing Highland reservoir site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A large piece of land that used to be needed as a water reservoir [and is located just across the street from Highland Villager HQ] will be reused as something, but nobody knows quite what yet. The city wants more rec fields, and maybe a bit of a parking lot. The county still wants a big parking lot, and maybe ice rinks someday. There is also a “more ambitious” County proposal involving ice rinks, a “water tower park” [WTH?] and retail. [Can we not with the surface parking lots? It seems like “pave it for parking” is like the #1 answer, no matter the question asked.]

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