Breaking News, Rumors,
This is the section of our website
where we will be posting breaking news. As we have time to clarify and edit the
information, we will be placing it in a more appropriate section of our website.
Brian and Russ
For Immediate Release
University Avenue History Group
Brian McMahon (651) 647-6711
Noted Historian Don Empson
to Present St. Paul History Workshop
March 22, at 10 a.m. and repeated at 7 p.m, Thursday March 27
Planning Studio, 1956 University Avenue, St. Paul
Donald Empson, the author of The Street
Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul, published by the University
Of Minnesota Press, will be conducting a workshop on how to research local history,
using the University Avenue corridor as a case study. Empson will present a variety
of research sources readily available to the public on the Internet or at local
libraries, including photographs, newspaper indexes, building permits, and oral
This class is being offered by the newly
established University Avenue History Group, a program of University UNITED. It
is intended to encourage residents to join in a grassroots effort to write the
history of this fascinating corridor. Stories and pictures will be posted on the
and will hopefully be incorporated into a published book. It is expected that
the website will become a repository of information about buildings no longer
standing, such as Montgomery Wards and the Prom Center, and other local landmarks,
such as Porkys, and the disappearing automobile dealerships. With over one billion
dollars being invested in a new light rail line, and related redevelopment activity
along the Avenue, the History Group felt it was a particularly opportune time
to document the history of this storied corridor.
Don Empson is the author of several books and articles
on the history of St. Paul and Stillwater neighborhoods and was a reference and
map librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society. He is a Principal Investigator
under the Secretary of the Interior Standards and Guidelines.
one-and-one-half-hour class will be taught at the U-PLAN Community Planning Studio,
1956 University Avenue, St. Paul, on Saturday, March 22, at 10 a.m. and repeated
at 7 p.m, March 27. Please register by emailing Brian McMahon at email@example.com
or calling 651.647.6711.
Posted on Sat,
Nov. 18, 2006
Home Depot now contender for site
Competitor had been pursuing key I-94 spot
In an apparent
last-minute switch, Home Depot - not competitor Lowe's - may have the inside track
in developing a prime piece of St. Paul real estate near Snelling Avenue and Interstate
City Hall sources, who would not speak publicly
because Home Depot hasn't made any announcement, say the company has or is nearing
an agreement with RK Midway, which is trying to develop the so-called "bus
barn" site in the Midway area.
Home Depot officials
recently visited City Hall to make a pitch to build there. City Council Member
Debbie Montgomery, who represents the area, acknowledged rumors of a switch but
declined to comment further.
Paula Maccabee, a consultant
for RK Midway, said she would wait for an announcement before commenting.
Home Depot is able to make a statement, that's when I'll be able to respond to
it," Maccabee said. "It really is the retailer that makes that determination,
not the person that happens to own the land."
project would be located on an almost 5-acre parcel adjacent to a companion 10-acre
piece of property that once housed a Metro Transit bus storage facility.
15-acre site is considered among the premier commercial development opportunities
in the Twin Cities. A Best Buy still is being discussed for the property once
Metro Transit sells the land.
Metro Transit is looking
for an alternative site for a bus facility and might be considering RK Midway-owned
property near Vandalia Street and Interstate 94.
on Home Depot's plans, the news could meet community resistance. The site has
been ground zero for a debate about the future of University Avenue.
plans for a light-rail line in the works, many have been advocating for higher-density,
transit-oriented development along University Avenue. They, along with Mayor Chris
Coleman, have argued that typical "big box" retailers don't fit with
their vision of how University should be developed.
McMahon, executive director of University United, said he would oppose any proposal
that looks suburban. Even if Home Depot added development features such as structured
parking, McMahon said, he still might not be comfortable with it.
can't just plop a building down of that magnitude and expect it to not have serious
consequences on how the rest of this is going to be developed," McMahon said.
years ago, plans for a Home Depot at Lexington Parkway and University Avenue fell
Jason Hoppin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pioneer Press, July 23,
Limits sought for University Avenue
Group seeks ban on drive-throughs, auto stores
BY LAURA YUEN
by a new limit on development on the eastern end of Grand Avenue, neighborhood
activists are now hoping to redraw land-use rules for St. Paul's less trendy commercial
There's no danger of a J. Jill or Helly Hansen
setting up shop along the urban jumble known as University Avenue.
planning group University United is asking district councils and city leaders
to back a plan that would at least temporarily ban new drive-through facilities
and auto-related businesses - hallmarks of the thoroughfare that still typify
Neither use, say community activists, belongs
on the future route of the Central Corridor light-rail line between downtown St.
Paul and Minneapolis.
"Drive-throughs are almost
symbolic affronts to the nature of this changing corridor," said Brian McMahon,
who heads University United. "In the past, there's been a willingness to
say anything is OK on University Avenue, and that has got to change."
Although McMahon said his board was encouraged by passage of
a new Summit Hill plan that caps big developments on Grand Avenue, he admitted
a "cultural chasm" in the urgency people feel toward protecting the
But others say that limits on development
- and on the potential of new jobs - isn't what the avenue needs.
people who live here, they need to be the ones working on a plan," said 1st
Ward City Council Member Debbie Montgomery.
standards are important, Montgomery added, but they can stand in the way of business.
She alluded to last year's negotiations to bring Best Buy and
Lowe's to a long-vacant Metro Transit bus-garage site at Snelling Avenue and Interstate
94. The companies were willing to construct the stores with sustainable building
principles and give the locations a "two-story look," Montgomery said,
but community activists weren't satisfied because the companies wouldn't build
a costly multi-level parking ramp or offer union-paying jobs.
project, which would have required a complicated land swap involving the Metropolitan
Council, lost momentum in part because of neighborhood concerns.
seems to be enough," Montgomery said.
United's proposal also would prohibit suburban-style developments epitomized by
hulking one-story buildings surrounded by asphalt parking lots. After securing
buy-in from district councils along University Avenue, McMahon wants the City
Council to pass the interim measures immediately. Existing businesses that don't
meet the proposed standards would be grandfathered in.
rules would stay in effect until the city implements permanent land-use rules
as recommended by the University Avenue Central Corridor task force. That citizens
panel is expected to unveil its blueprint of the corridor by year's end.
Those regulations are no small matter.
Federal Transit Administration considers a city's land-use regulations among several
other criteria when evaluating which mass-transit projects across the country
deserve funding, said Steve Morris, Central Corridor project manager with the
Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.
know that you could say one specific piece of zoning or legislation is in itself
crucial, but clearly they evaluate the whole spectrum of zoning and land use,"
The proposal also signals a shift in strategy
for the University United umbrella coalition, which over the past several years
helped brand "transit-oriented development" as a buzzword in city planning
circles. After losing piecemeal battles to such projects as a CVS pharmacy, a
TCF Bank branch and a new SuperTarget, members agreed they needed to change the
Recent news that Brothers Auto Sales and Car
Wash would be setting up an additional car lot on a parcel of the now-empty Whitaker
Buick site disappointed Randy Schubring, a University United board member and
vice president of the Hamline Midway Coalition who lives three blocks away.
"Having some control over what the avenue will look like
is crucial because now is the time when developers are coming in and purchasing
property," Schubring said, referring to interest spurred by light-rail transit.
"We have more leverage now, but we don't have the guidelines."
Ellen Watters, a vice president with the St. Paul Area Chamber
of Commerce, said she feared that such a ban would depress the value of several
prominent parcels on the market. And singling out car dealers and service stations
interferes with the market, she said.
reason why there's a lot of auto-oriented businesses on University Avenue: There's
a demand," she said. "I don't know if this is a reaction to Target and
those businesses are providing taxes and jobs, and they're both
very successful. Clearly, there are a lot of people who are shopping at their
Laura Yuen can be reached at email@example.com
A new view of the avenue, 'Block
Lawyer Lawson Waturuocha has seen the
block of University Avenue storefronts near his law office transformed into a
tree-lined street with more prominent windows and signage.
that architect's rendering, the lawyer saw a glimpse of the future.
it ends up looking like the drawings, it will look beautiful, no question,"
said Waturuocha, whose business is on the northeast corner of University and Snelling
avenues. "But the feasibility of it, I don't know."
planning exercise held this spring was a test case for a new "charrette"
program that will pair architects with property owners, block by block. The initiative,
spearheaded by University United and dubbed "Block by Block," will also
give participants a chance to dabble with Geographic Information System mapping
and other resources.
Architects at the Snelling-University
session, for example, heard merchants' concerns about parking shortages and designed
a shared parking ramp that could be constructed behind the buildings. It's still
unclear who would fund most of the improvements, but the city has pitched in about
$200,000 for facade changes at the Snelling block.
the program will get a prominent home, thanks in part to a $125,000 grant from
the Minneapolis Foundation. University United hopes to set up a new storefront
planning center along the avenue and get the program started within three months.
Tim Griffin of the St. Paul on the Mississippi Design Center
will help oversee the charrette program. Starting next spring, fellow architects
with the American Institute of Architects-Minnesota will volunteer their expertise.
The idea is to get neighbors to think of their block as an "investment"
in which they can participate, Griffin said.
more about Block by Block, call University United at 651-647-6711 or visit www.universityunited.com.
A New Name for "Central Corridor"?
Posted on Wed, Jun. 28, 2006
it a corridor or an avenue or something else?
the $840-million+ Central Corridor light-rail project is expected to get a blessing
from the Metropolitan Council, a big step for mass transit in the Twin Cities.
plenty of big logistical challenges remain - not the least of which is a "diet"
to get price-bloating under control - others are on the table, too. Long-term
challenges of vision, identity, image.
project would connect the two downtowns and plenty in between. It would start
at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul, go past the State Capitol, run along University
Avenue in St. Paul, underneath the University of Minnesota to downtown Minneapolis.
Before freeways, University was the main thoroughfare between the two downtowns.
have a master plan for the whole system," says Jack Silverman, vice president,
account management at Bolin Marketing and Advertising in Minneapolis. "There
should be a master identity plan as well."
the Central Corridor Development Strategy Task Force plans to meet with a Toronto
consultant who specializes in land-use and planning issues on transit-related
development. The group's role is to create a vision for the corridor in St. Paul.
Surveys and focus groups are likely. Careful listening is essential.
want to tease out people's highest hopes and greatest fears," says Nancy
Homans, policy director with Mayor Chris Coleman's office.
other people are building buzz around the corridor. Two examples:
- Brian McMahon, executive director of University United, wants
to ditch the "Central Corridor" name in favor of something that's more
inviting and appealing. He argues that the new name should convey a sense of place,
not a means to a place. "Corridor" is about as welcoming as the long
hallway to the operating room.
The Avenue, anyone?
- Bruce Corrie, an economics professor at Concordia University,
has high hopes for a global cultural district along the eastern end of the corridor,
starting at Lexington Avenue. To that end, Corrie has organized a committee to
look into that idea, which would encompass business, arts and culture.
Avenue of the World, anyone?
These two efforts alone
illustrate how nuanced, diverse and potentially divisive the issues are. The trick
will be to find commonalities among the stakeholders, from the car dealers and
Asian restaurants to the residents who remember Rondo - in a way that encourages
a sense of opportunity and ownership.
No plan can
treat all interests equally. No name can make everybody happy.
words do have meaning, and it's worthwhile to argue about what these words ought
Editorial: University LRT line should
get green light
Minnesota's 30-year feud over
transportation isn't entirely over. Metro and outstate interests still fight over
money, and transit still feels a stepchild to roads. But the great "bus or
light rail" dispute that left the Twin Cities decades behind on transit development
appears to be over. The right answer, of course, is that this region needs both
buses and trains, a point that the Metropolitan Council should emphasize today
as it officially selects light rail as the best transit option for connecting
downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.
begin by 2010 and trains could be gliding along University Avenue by 2013. That's
a full 140 years after both cities first planned (in 1873) to remake the street
into a grand, tree-lined boulevar! d with fountains, statues and a street railway
running down the center. Better late than never.
the new University line joins up with Hiawatha, the region will have the beginnings
of an actual light-rail system connecting key destinations -- the downtowns, the
University of Minnesota, the Mall of America, the airport and at least two new
sports stadiums. The North Star commuter rail line and a number of bus-rapid-transit
(BRT) lines will serve as branches. "We will never be New York where a lot
of people can get along without cars, but we can make it feasible for families
with three or four cars to get down to one or two, and that's a legitimate policy
goal," said Met Council Chairman Peter Bell.
council's decision to support rail over bus turns out to be not so hard after
all. BRT would have reached capacity in 2020, not a good value for $241 million.
Light rail costs three times more to build, but it is cheaper to operate, delivers
more riders o! ver a much longer span of time and attracts far more developme!
Even so, to qualify for federal matching funds,
the project must start on a diet. Our preference is to trim, temporarily, the
4th Street segment between Cedar Street and Union Depot in downtown St. Paul,
and to ask the city and Ramsey County to help pay for streetscape along University
Avenue. It should be a higher priority to keep the tunnel at the university's
East Bank campus, a feature that, if postponed now, is unlikely ever to be built.
Neighborhood pressure to add stations should be resisted, also because of costs.
A five-year delay has already pushed the projected cost to $930 million from $840
million, although the cuts mentioned above should knock the price back down.
Hiawatha line's popularity has made LRT on University Avenue an easier choice.
Yes, there will be disruption. Yes, there will be pressure for denser development
along the corridor. But St. Paul, Minneapolis, the university and the region will
be stronger for it.
Pacts give citizens
a say in projects
agreements along with development
BY LAURA YUEN Pioneer Press
Is the vision romantic or radical?
Rosenthal dreams of a time when faith leaders, union representatives and neighborhood
activists in St. Paul can broker deals alongside real estate developers.
a so-called "community benefits agreement," a developer would agree
to a number of social-justice demands, such as affordable housing and high-paying
jobs, in exchange for the community's blessings before the developer seeks city
approval for a project.
Organizers believe such provisions
would ripple through surrounding neighborhoods and help "lift people out
The California-born concept of community
benefits agreements has caught on in recent years in cities such as Denver and
Milwaukee, especially for projects involving public subsidies. But in St. Paul,
activists like Rosenthal are hoping to extend such negotiated agreements to private
developments, particularly those along a future $840 million light-rail train
route on University Avenue.
A recently approved SuperTarget
on the avenue rankled organizers like Rosenthal who wanted additional design changes
and stronger commitment to labor issues.
it the companies who are in charge? Or is it the city and community who are in
charge?" asks Rosenthal, executive director of St. Paul's Jewish Community
Action and member of the new University Avenue Community Coalition. Typically,
he says, "the companies come in, ignore the comprehensive plan and say: 'We're
going to create jobs here. Take it or leave it.' "
elsewhere have successfully used the legally binding tools, known as CBAs, for
the $11 billion modernization of the Los Angeles International Airport and an
eco-friendly mega-project in San Diego. Developers in the latter case took the
extra step last fall of agreeing to consider towers with nonreflective glass -
to prevent birds from crashing into the high-rises.
consider the trend a win-win situation for communities and businesses, but critics
say it muddies the planning process and intrudes on private-property rights. Lori
Fritts, president of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, said writing stiffer rules
into individualized contracts could jeopardize projects.
(developers) want to invest in the community, they want community support,"
Fritts said. "The more difficult we make that - and make them legally liable
for something they can't control or can't accomplish - we're not helping."
of adding another layer to the system, activist Brian McMahon says, his social-equity
colleagues should take their message to elected officials and district councils.
can understand their underlying desires and goals. The problem is:
you identify who represents the community?" said McMahon, director of University
United, a planning coalition. "Here's the reality: A big-time developer will
basically either find or set up community groups, or buy off community groups.
. The process gets pretty complicated."
THE ONES WHO LIVE HERE'
In St. Paul, Rosenthal
and fellow coalition member Nieeta Presley point to the bulldozed corner at Lexington
Parkway and University Avenue to show how development can fall short of community
expectations. A new Aldi discount grocery and a TCF bank disappointed activists
who called them an uninspired fit for a future light-rail train intersection.
their group helped persuade developer Steve Wellington to abandon his original
plans for a retail strip mall. Wilder Foundation officials just broke ground there
for a $37 million headquarters, and a senior housing complex is in the pipeline.
Wellington now wants to build 75 mid-level condominiums within the next year,
an idea that came out of regular meetings he had with community representatives.
continue to be a little puzzled with this (group's) modest grouchiness around
a project that I think is kind of heroic," Wellington said. "This does
not seem like an example of a project that doesn't work."
some extent," he added, "the market needs to be driving certain decisions
as well. You can't force development into unprofitable corners."
in St. Paul say the community-minded rhetoric of Mayor Chris Coleman and a new
city task force on the Central Corridor redevelopment makes benefits agreements
ripe for consideration.
"So often the developers
don't come to the community first," said Jessica Treat, executive director
of the Lexington-Hamline Community Council. "We're the ones who shop here.
We're the ones who live here."
Treat was counting
on Coleman to take a position against suburban- style, big-box retailers that
have proliferated on University Avenue.
month he issued a strongly worded statement against such kinds of development
- but only after approving the new SuperTarget.
goals for minority contracting and affordable housing are already on the books
for projects seeking city subsidy. But forcing conditions on an unsubsidized project
for which the city lacks any real leverage might cause St. Paul to miss out on
development opportunities, said Nancy Homans, Coleman's policy director.
wouldn't want to go too far down the path of creating requirements that aren't
in other cities in the metropolitan area," Homans said. "We are in a
competitive environment, and we would want to strike a balance between private-property
rights and public responsibility."
have sprouted in other cities since 2001, when Los Angeles community groups negotiated
several conditions for a major hotel and entertainment hub around Staples Center,
said Greg LeRoy, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Good Jobs First.
Labor and neighborhood leaders heralded it as a model for urban partnerships.
concept also has emerged as a way to "negotiate tension," particularly
in cities that are experiencing gentrification, LeRoy said.
giving people in the neighborhood a real chance to shape the neighborhood, increasing
the chance that they won't be displaced, that they will have jobs and that they
will prosper with the project," he said.
Minneapolis City Council could sign off on a benefits agreement as early as this
summer when it decides on a wireless Internet proposal. One of the conditions
requested by a community coalition is free or low-cost Internet access for the
In San Diego, benefits organizers representing
27 groups hashed out a contract with developers behind Ballpark Village, the biggest
development project in the city's history. In addition to the bird- friendly buildings,
developers signed off on 200 affordable housing units and some of the highest
environmental standards in the country for a residential high-rise.
don't think either side believed we would be able to do a deal, but as we got
into it, it came to be a really in-depth process," said Paul Karr, a spokesman
for the Center of Policy Initiatives, one of the lead organizing groups.
developers, who saw us probably as a bunch of hippies in some sort of peace parade,
actually got to learn that we're pretty bright, we know our issues well, and we
wanted to know their issues as well," he said.
Yuen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW COMMUNITY AGREEMENTS WORK
are community benefits agreements?
CBAs are legally
binding contracts that spell out the provisions a developer will follow in exchange
for the community's support. These commitments often include affordable housing,
living-wage requirements, and transit-oriented and sustainable development and
Why would a developer agree to those
Projects often need community backing
if developers are seeking public subsidy or city approval.
do they get started?
In most cases, community coalitions
approach the developers before government approval of a project. Negotiations
in other cities have lasted at least a few months and often longer. Ideally, organizers
say, attorneys for both the coalition and developer are brought in to formalize
the contracts after the parties have reached an agreement.
fees can be costly, a disadvantage especially for the neighborhood groups.
did the movement start in St. Paul?
started meeting in late 2004 with city officials and a developer about plans for
a 5-acre site at Lexington Parkway and University Avenue. Although a CBA never
materialized, the conversations helped produce a two-story bank and plans for
affordable senior housing on the corner.
What do local
organizers want from the city?
The University Avenue
Community Coalition is hoping the city will eventually adopt CBAs for major development
First, the city would sign off on an agreed
set of principles that would subject future projects to those shared values. Additionally,
it would require developers to meet with grass-roots organizers to negotiate the
terms of the project. No city in the nation has been known to adopt CBAs as across-the-board
policy, but the agreements have increasingly become popular on individual projects.
For more information about community benefits
agreements, visit the Partnership for Working Families at www.communitybenefits.org.
Information about CBA efforts in the Twin Cities can be found at www.metrostability.org.
UNITED Comments on Central Corridor Draft Environmental
Comments Regarding the Central
Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement
by University UNITED
1954 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55082
June 5, 2006
At its Board meeting on May 15, 2006, University
UNITED created a Task Force for the purpose of responding to the Draft Environmental
Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Central Corridor project. This Task Force
met on May 24th, and reviewed the comments of a number of other community organizations
including the District Council Collaborative (DCC), the Midway TMO, the draft
comments of the City of St. Paul, and the like. Because UNITED's mission is land
use and the advocacy of transit-oriented development, it was agreed to focus its
comments on the land use implications of the proposed project. Land use is an
important part of this project, as described in one of the objectives enumerated
in the DEIS:
"Objective: Promote a reliable transit
system that allows an efficient, effective land use development pattern in major
activity centers which minimizes parking demand, facilitates the highest and best
use of adjacent properties, and gives employers confidence that employees can
travel to/from work."
The following are the comments
of University UNITED:
1.) Right of Way Improvements.
The project, as originally envisioned, calls for a rebuilding of the entire
street right-of-way from building front to building front. UNITED strongly supports
this position. To help guide this re-building, we recommend that design guidelines
be developed for streetscape improvements, buildings and the public realm.
Station Placement. UNITED supports studying the possibility of adding additional
stations along the line including, but not limited to, Western, Victoria, and
Hamline Avenues. Criteria need to be established regarding the basis for selecting
station locations, whether as part of the first phase of the project, or at a
3.) Connectivity and Accessibility.
UNITED supports the calls from a number of its community partners for improved
connector transit service feeding into the Central Corridor, as well as insuring
an ease of crossing University Avenue by car, bicycle or walking.
Zoning, TOD, Travel Demand Management Strategies, Development Limited Moratorium.
In order to meet one of the critical objectives of the project there needs to
be better coordination and connection between transportation and land use policies.
Zoning, city funding, development procedures and the like, must reinforce the
goal of decreasing reliance on the automobile, and increasing the use of transit.
The criteria of TOD should be incorporated into zoning and all land use approvals.
For large development parcels in public ownership, such as the "bus barn
site" at Snelling, there should be covenants ensuring that future development
will be TOD. A short term and limited scope development moratorium should be immediately
instituted to bring clarity to the development process and to insure that opportunities
for TOD are preserved.
In addition, there should
be a concerted effort to incorporate Travel Demand Strategies into all land use
and development approvals. The following are two instructive examples as to how
this can work:
Planning Magazine, May 2006
Excerpts from "Playing the Numbers Game"
way to deal with the inherent uncertainty of traffic analysis is to place less
emphasis on traffic forecasts and to focus instead on achieving a specific trip
reduction as a policy goal."
Examples of Travel
Demand Management Tied to Land Use Approvals:
example is Montgomery County, Maryland, part of the Washington, D.C. metro area.
In the late 1980s, developers of the Silver Spring Metro Center were required
to agree to stringent mode choice objectives as a condition of development approval.
They had to guarantee a 30 percent transit mode share and a car pooling rate of
1.3 persons per vehicle. The alternative was to ensure that auto drivers would
make up no more 50 percent of employees arriving or departing at peak times.
Fairfax County, Virginia, adopted trip-reduction targets in December, 2004 as
a condition of a comprehensive plan amendment to allow dense, transit-oriented
development adjacent to the Vienna Metrorail Station. For office uses, the county
mandates a 25 percent reduction in peak-hour vehicle trips; for residential, the
target is 47 percent.
5.) Parking, Park and Ride,
Shared Parking. The overarching goal of the Central Corridor project is to
reduce automobile usage. However, there may be justification to explore the possibility
of locating a parking ramp within the Midway regional retail cluster that could
serve a dual purpose of parking for light rail and shopping. Additionally, plans
currently call for the removal of approximately 600 parking spots along the street
as part of the project. UNITED agrees with the City's position that there is no
obligation to compensate or mitigate for the loss of that parking. However, we
recommend that the City and County explore the possibility of creating a funding
source that could be used to promote off-street shared parking on a block by block
basis along the corridor. The Snelling Block Initiative is potentially a good
demonstration project for how this could work. Finally, UNITED believes there
is now sufficient data available to justify a rewriting of the City's zoning code
to reduce the amount of required off-street parking for new projects.
Commercial Gentrification. UNITED is recommending that every effort be
made to protect the small retail businesses along the corridor to insure their
long term viability. We recommend that the project retain a retail and marketing
consultant to study how similarly situated corridors in other cities fared on
this issue. In particular, it would be helpful to determine the types of businesses
and land use that were positively impacted by light rail, and to develop a guidebook
outlining ways that small merchants can prepare for the future. UNITED also believes
it is appropriate to explore the potential of reinforcing ethnic retail clusters
through various policies and programs.
Branding. For years the term "Central Corridor" has been used to
identify this project. We believe this term offers little potential to support
a marketing and branding effort for promoting University Avenue or the adjoining
neighborhoods. In fact, it's continued use represents a squandering of "brand
equity". UNITED supports the establishment of a process to promote a marketing/
branding study. We believe the terminology for the name of the light rail project
and its individual stations should be studied as part of this process.
Traffic Congestion. Concerns have been raised about the possibility of
the proposed light rail line exacerbating automobile congestion. UNITED calls
for a transportation study of a larger area bounded by I-94 on the south, Highway
36 on the north, I-35E and I-35W. We have previously expressed our concerns about
a piece-meal study of congestion issues at various nodes, such as Snelling, in
the absence of a more comprehensive overview. We would strongly oppose any proposal
for easing traffic congestion that would work at cross purposes for meeting TOD
or transit objectives.
9.) Parks, Open Space, Dickerman
Park. Special efforts should be made to incorporate green space and parks
into the amenity value and identity of the light rail line.
Crime Prevention. UNITED urges that a coordinated and comprehensive crime
prevention strategy be designed into the project, working with community organizations
along the corridor and UNITED. There should be a reaffirmation of the importance
of "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design" (CPTED) to prohibit
blank walls at station areas, such as what occurred with the CVS project at Snelling.
In addition there should be a "Code of Conduct" created outlining behavioral
expectations for transit riders.
11.) Energy Spine.
UNITED urges an exploration of the possibility of installing an energy/ utility
trunk line in a roadway trench if the street were to be dug up for light rail.
This could promote economic development and offer a competitive advantage for
the corridor. In addition, if the spine could utilize locally generated power,
not dependent on the regional power grid, it would offer protection from a regional
power failure, and/or a national security emergency.
Organizational/ Process. UNITED urges that the project recognize and support
grass roots community collaborations such as the District Councils Collaborative
(DCC) and the University Avenue Merchants Association (UAMA) and its chapter organizations
such as that being formed by District 7 and 8 at the Dale Street node.
Design/Build versus Contractor Bid. UNITED recognizes the respective benefits
of letting the light rail construction be bid on a Design/ Build or as a conventional
straight bid process. We are concerned that a Design/ Build approach can have
the effect of removing the community from vital design decisions that are made
as the construction process is underway, as occurred on the Hiawatha line. We
recommend that the bid process options be analyzed with an eye to insuring continued
community involvement and oversight.
and Map Sharing. During the upcoming preliminary engineering phase, UNITED
requests that the information gathered by the consultants be formatted in a way
that could be made available to community organizations for the purpose of community
based planning. UNITED, and other groups, are in the process of establishing a
collaborative, publicly accessible GIS network.
Change for Central Corridor?"
Time for a name change?
By Bill Clements, F&C Feature
June 15, 2006
Brian McMahon, head of University
United, thinks the name of the Central Corridor light-rail transit project should
be changed to better reflect its location along University Avenue.
believe this term offers little potential to support a marketing and branding
effort for promoting University Avenue or the adjoining neighborhoods," McMahon
wrote in University United's comments on the draft environmental impact statement
on the construction of either light rail or a beefed-up busway along University.
"In fact, its continued use represents a squandering
of 'brand equity,'" he added.
The public had a
chance to submit comments and suggestions involving either light rail or the busway
during a 45-day comment period that ended June 5.
next day, the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee recommended that the Metropolitan
Council support building light rail along University between the downtowns, a
project estimated at $840 million.
The Met Council on
June 30 is expected to support the light-rail choice and request permission from
the Federal Transit Administration to enter the preliminary engineering phase
of the project.
"I don't think we've thought about
[changing the name]. In fact, I'm sure we haven't," said Steve Morris, Central
Corridor project manager. "But logically, the Met Council would designate
the name of the route as part of their transportation network."
added that in the initial stages of the project 10 years ago, the name had to
be generic because no one knew for sure where a light-rail system might go.
Article on MTMO Parking Study
By Bill Clements, F&C Feature Writer
June 15, 2006
A new study
of parking capacity along University Avenue in St. Paul confirms what observation
suggests: There's too much parking in that busy corridor.
during peak parking-demand periods, many spots in off-street surface lots belonging
to retail entities along University remain empty, according to the study, which
will be released publicly today.
St. Paul's zoning code is mostly responsible
for the excess, as it requires new retail entities to provide more parking spaces
than they need, according to Russ Stark, author of the study and director of the
Midway Transportation Management Organization, an affiliate of the University
United community group.
The code requires extra parking
spots to avoid having drivers spill over onto residential streets in search of
But having too many parking spaces is
also a negative, Stark said, mostly because extra spots occupy land that could
be used for more responsible or lucrative development.
what you could do with the extra land freed up by less surface parking,"
St. Paul officials should lower parking requirements
along University to better match parking-space usage in that busy corridor, Stark
In the early 1990s, city officials looked at the
issue and lowered some parking requirements, according to Larry Soderholm, planning
administrator for the St. Paul department of Planning and Economic Development
But the changes have proven inadequate.
"The study is right," said Soderholm, who serves as
PED's liaison with the St. Paul Planning Commission and has reviewed the new data.
"Our parking requirements are too high. We should
find a way to reduce the requirements; at the very least, they should be reduced
in the highest transit areas, like University Avenue."
dealing with new developments, Stark said, the city should limit the percentage
of the overall site that can be used for surface parking to somewhere around 40
"What we find with big-box retailers
is that about 70 percent of their overall square footage is devoted to parking,"
Stark said. "The CVS Pharmacy [at University and Snelling avenues] is 70
percent parking. The Aldi at Lexington and University is about 75 percent parking.
I'd guess the Target there now is about 67 percent parking lot."
Both Stark and Soderholm say the new study points to the need
for careful parking-related planning during the early stages of designing the
Central Corridor light-rail transit (LRT) system that's expected to span both
downtowns, mostly along University Avenue.
we do transit-oriented development (TOD) planning around the LRT stations,"
Soderholm said, "we should really hold down the amount of parking. And the
first thing we can do is not require parking, which would require a change to
our city code."
The new study points out that current
plans for the LRT system would remove about 20 percent of existing on-street parking
on University Avenue, mostly in the intersections where the LRT stations would
To handle parking capacity along the LRT, Stark
said, the city should use "shared" parking lots, which could be either
existing private lots managed in a different way or new municipal lots. No municipal
lots exist along University now.
"The city needs
to look at this on a station-by-station, block-by-block basis and figure out where
along the way there are opportunities to put in shared parking lots," Stark
Soderholm said city planners in general "hate
to balkanize a city like that, where there are different rules for different streets."
But sometimes that's what has to happen, he said.
Paul is a good example of where such an approach is needed, according to Stark,
because parking issues differ from one spot to another.
in St. Paul is a tale of two cities," Stark said. "On University Avenue,
we have too much parking and not enough development, but on Grand Avenue we have
too much development and not enough parking.
a citywide perspective, you have to balance those two ends of the parking spectrum,"
In fact, Soderholm said, the planning commission
is about to recommend to the city council the creation of a zoning overlay district
along east Grand Avenue that will force new businesses to provide any and all
required parking spots.
Previously, if the zoning code
required a new business to provide five or fewer additional parking spots than
the previous business occupant, than the new business didn't have to provide any
new parking. This is known as "the Rule of 5," Soderholm said.
Under the new zoning along east Grand Avenue, the rule will
be abolished and new businesses will have to provide for even one additional parking
Posted on Sun, Dec. 04, 2005
Parkland visualized as oasis
Planners hope to redesign University Avenue space that
is mostly parking lot
BY LAURA YUEN
time to make good on an old promise. In 1909, two brothers in the real estate
business donated a plot of University Avenue parkland to the city of St. Paul.
Since then, the land has experienced the indignity of being cut up, paved over
and parked on for the past several decades.
Park, named after the brothers who donated it, today looks more like an underwhelming
hodge-podge of front lawns and parking spaces for neighboring businesses.
could change in a big way so big that even the Dickermans couldn't have
imagined this Dickerman Park.
A community-guided design
team wants to transform the city-owned land between Fairview Avenue and Aldine
Street into an edgy, urban public space that shares the idealism of downtown Chicago's
Renderings that will be unveiled
to the public Thursday highlight the spine of the linear park a quarter-mile-long
walkway lined with oak trees and illuminated picture walls. Images by Twin Cities
photographer Wing Young Huie would showcase the diverse intersection of people
who work and live along University Avenue, a blue-collar artery often overshadowed
by the trendier Grand and Selby avenues.
and art gallery, gardens and a plaza of water jets would also define the 2.5-acre
space, which at its widest is only 150 feet.
we're advocating is place-making things happening along the corridor that
will make people want to get out of their cars, out of the (proposed) light rail,
out of the bus," said Brian McMahon, who heads the planning group University
United, which helped organize a community task force that guided the new design.
not just a fly zone between two downtowns," McMahon said. "We are a
place. This will be the crown jewel of everything we envision in the corridor."
and others admit that the proposed $5 million makeover is ambitious. Many people
think of University Avenue as a place to catch a bus, get their oil changed or
fill up on Asian spring rolls.
They don't think "international
destination," which is what its Minneapolis-based landscape architects, Coen
and Partners, are hoping to create.
be the most obvious challenge to the park's redevelopment. McMahon expects it
would require up to $4 million from private donors and the remaining amount from
the city or federal grants. With that task ahead, supporters say it will likely
take at least until spring 2007 for construction to begin.
at least one family already has given generously to the cause. A $50,000 gift
from descendants of the Dickerman brothers paid for the preliminary design. Kent
Dickerman of St. Paul learned through a 2003 Pioneer Press article about the park's
future that his grandfather and great-uncle had donated the land. Excited about
discovering a Dickerman Park in his own town, he called relatives across the country
to raise money for its redevelopment.
about 20 members of nearby neighborhood groups, property owners, Friends of the
Parks and Trails of St. Paul and Ramsey County, Public Art St. Paul and other
community organizations helped steer the design.
Coen, the firm's principal, said he wants people to experience the park up close
but also while cruising by; the park should be appreciated at "various speeds,"
Coen said. He and Coen and Partners associate Stephanie Grotta said they were
most intrigued by the Midway's perpetually changing character from railroad
and trucking corridor to an industrial manufacturing beltway to a residential
enclave for immigrants and families of color.
diversity provides plenty of material for Huie, a photographer who has shown his
curiosity for urban streets through past projects in the Frogtown neighborhood
and Lake Street in Minneapolis. Since March, his encounters in the Midway have
led him to pictures of everyday life. One is a portrait of the Eritrean-born owner
of the Snelling Café. Another shot shows a longtime customer getting a
haircut at the old-fashioned New Style Barbers.
redefining what Minnesota is. My goal is to reflect the neighborhood in such a
way that no one would come to the park and say, 'How come I'm not represented?'
" Huie said.
The neighborhoods around University
Avenue, it is said, are a microcosm of America, but most residents never have
the chance to tell their stories.
how many people want to be photographed and to be paid attention to," he
Come spring, riders of the No. 16 bus will get
a glimpse of the project. A $30,000 demonstration project, funded through a city
neighborhood-revitalization grant, will display Huie's latest photography on the
bus stops at Fairview Avenue and at Wheeler Street.
money is by far the biggest obstacle, 4th Ward City Council Member Jay Benanav
predicts that a growing enthusiasm about the park, coupled with the recent additions
of housing and businesses along the corridor, will push the project forward.
other unresolved conundrum, Benanav acknowledges, is parking. The two portions
of the park that now serve as parking lots one for the hulking Griggs-Midway
office building and the other for a charter school would disappear under
the proposal. In 1957, the city gave the owners of Griggs-Midway permission to
pave over the western portion of the park for about 40 spaces. The city also allowed
the nearby YMCA to build a 10-car lot on the site in 1977.
McClung, property manager for Griggs-Midway, said the task force promised the
nearby businesses, which now maintain the park, that it would address the loss
of parking spaces. But as the group's meetings continued over the past several
months, that focus became less central to the discussion, McClung said. She would
like to see some public funding go to a new parking ramp in back of her office
building, which houses about 140 tenants.
To be sure,
McClung said, the people who work in the buildings would benefit from the park.
But she expressed skepticism about how widely used it would be.
of the housing is two or three blocks away, and some is across the intimidating
barrier of University Avenue, she said. "I just don't see the community coming
and using the park."
Kent Dickerman's wife, Ariel,
acknowledged that it would take a sea change in public perception to make it a
success. In fact, on a recent trip to take her husband's two out-of-town sisters
for a drive by the park, she literally drove by, not realizing she had passed
Ariel Dickerman said that neither she nor her
husband had ever thought about their own vision for the space, and they certainly
had never expected the designs to evolve into anything so grand.
just didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle," she said. "We want
whatever the neighborhood wants. I feel strongly that this is their park."
Yuen can be reached at email@example.com
If you go:
preliminary designs for Dickerman Park will be unveiled to the public at 6 p.m.
Thursday at Marsden Building Maintenance, 1717 W. University Ave. To get more
information or to find out how you can contribute, call University United at 651-647-6711
or visit www.universityunited.com.
© 2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources.
All Rights Reserved.
Editorial: University Avenue must prepare for
Star Tribune, November 27, 2005
Paul Mayor-elect Chris Coleman faces no more important task than getting University
Avenue ready for light rail. It will be hard enough to push ahead on federal and
state funding for the $840 million project. It will be harder still to retrofit
the architecture -- and the mind-set -- of a corridor that continues to encourage
big-box retail, vast parking lots and more auto traffic.That sort of suburbanization
is incompatible with light rail and, if it continues, could jeopardize federal
support. St. Paul must understand that light rail is as much about land use as
transportation. The best course now is for Coleman to launch a broad, long-range
planning process for the avenue that includes everyone.Already St. Paul has one
of the best such models anywhere: the Phalen Corridor. Replicating Phalen's energy,
commitment and spirit along University is a good place to start. The projects
are different, to be sure. Phalen's overriding vision has been to enhance jobs
and social stability on the gritty East Side. University Avenue has more assets
but far less consensus on what it should become. As with Phalen, forging a new
corridor will take a unified vision, collaboration and the kind of marketing sizzle
that Phalen's project director, Curt Milburn, has supplied. All parties, beginning
with neighbors and local businesses, must come to see the project as theirs. Most
important, they must imagine the avenue not as it is now, but as it should be
in 25 years -- and then set policies to ensure the outcome they choose.Rezoning
the corridor for transit-oriented development, opposed by Randy Kelly's administration,
would make a good beginning. A new Lowe's, Best Buy and SuperTarget might still
be possible. But their designs should be compatible with a city lifestyle that
depends less on the auto for every trip. Questioning Metro Transit's bus garage
deal on Snelling Avenue is imperative. Does it make sense to sell transit-owned
land next to a future LRT station without requiring that any new development would
complement transit?Accommodating the concerns of small business is another important
factor. Concentrating first on the blocks west of Snelling, where transit-oriented
development is most welcome, might also make sense. Success there could spread
eastward.Coleman is on the right track when he says St. Paul must stop just responding
to developers' ideas and get out ahead with a prospective plan for the Midway
District. Getting University Avenue ready for light rail is vital for the city
Posted on Thu, Nov. 03, 2005
Snelling bus barn debate is important for St. Paul
the sale of the Midway Sheraton property to Target appears to be a done deal,
the disposition of the Metro Transit bus barn site at Snelling Avenue and Interstate
94 is anything but. Indeed, there are a number of issues that must be resolved
and a number of projects that'll hinge on that resolution.
happy to report that the debate over how the bus barn site can be sold is now
settled. For the longest time, some, including the Met Council, argued that it
had to be a land swap because that was the only means by which to keep happy the
Federal Transit Administration, which gave the Met Council huge subsidies for
the property long ago. That no longer appears to be the case.
could use the proceeds from the sale of the Snelling site for FTA-approved transit
infrastructure improvements," said Met Council spokesman Steve Dornfeld.
"The larger issue is that we need another bus garage in the Midway area if
we are to expand bus service in the east metro area."
BUS BARN SITE
In other words, the Met Council
is using the commercial desirability of the bus barn site to ensure that it gets
a bus barn site in the East Metro.
Which brings us
to 807 Hampden Ave., the property north of University Avenue where the Met Council
would like to put its east metro bus barn. To the consternation of many, 807 Hampden
is also one block north of Carleton Lofts, an upscale housing development that's
expected to break ground in the middle of this month.
Johnson, manager of University Carleton Development, which is embarking on the
$120 million, two-phase development of lofts and condos, told Finance and Commerce
that he would be hesitant to go ahead with Phase II - two new buildings with 200
to 250 condos - if the bus barn goes in at 807 Hampden. It's too late to stop
City Councilman Jay Benanav agrees with developers
and community activists like University United's Brian McMahon that 807 Hampden
is a bad site for the bus barn.
to ask the Met Council to just sell the land and take that money and use it to
reduce their bonding request for transportation from the state Legislature,"
Benanav said. "That money could even be used for light rail."
ABOUT LIGHT RAIL?
That's the other issue roiling
the development of the bus barn site. There are plans in the works to build a
Lowe's home improvement store and a Best Buy on the site. But McMahon, Benanav
and others argue that the last thing the congested intersection needs is big box
retail, which will only bring more traffic.
a concern," said Benanav. "It doesn't mean it's a deal killer, but that
area is already pretty congested."
A new transit study is the works that's expected to confirm that University and
Snelling avenues is one of the busiest intersections in the state. It's also expected
to include recommendations on what to do about it.
other question related to Lowe's (and transit) is how far out the city should
start planning for light rail.
"I think we're
close enough now," said Benanav. "I think it'll happen within five or
If light rail does come to University
Avenue, something we've long supported, is another big box retailer the best thing
to put near an intersection already congested with traffic and slated to be a
major light rail stop? We're somewhat reluctant to say "no" because
some local residents clearly welcome the Lowe's and Best Buy (and Target, Cub
and CVS), which all save them a trip to comparable stores in the suburbs.
also sympathetic to the concerns voiced by McMahon and others that all of this
is happening in somewhat of a vacuum, bereft of a comprehensive area development
plan from the city. We understand the trepidations of Mayor Randy Kelly and his
planning czar, Susan Kimberly, who argue that University Avenue development will
boom with - and be predicated upon - light rail. But we also think the city, which
has a modest plan in hand, could do more to lure the kinds of businesses and developments
now that it knows will come with light rail.
the debates around development of the bus barn site are important. The Met Council
should give more than lip service to concerns from legitimate neighborhood voices
opposing the 807 Hampden site. We can understand Metro Transit's need for an east
metro bus barn, but is this the only site that works?
what moves into the bus barn site needs to be decided with an eye toward the future,
namely its impact on local traffic and its fit with light rail. Those are the
questions that must be answered before anything can be done with the site.
2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Market's working in the Midway
on Tue, Nov. 01, 2005
Midway community groups are marching
on St. Paul City Hall again, pitchforks in hand. The occasion is the closing of
the Midway Sheraton hotel and plans for redevelopment of the site. Target Corp.
was to have closed on the property Monday.Brian McMahon of University United,
the perpetual Midway thorn in city officials' side, complains that the hotel contributed
$100,000 annually in taxes to the St. Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau, but
all will be lost with the closing of the hotel, a Midway asset, in his view. That's
partially true."We have estimated that the CVB previously received approximately
$119,000 in occupancy tax receipts from that property annually," said Karolyn
Kirchgesler, president and CEO of the St. Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We would assume that some of the business booked at the Midway Sheraton
will now be placed into other properties within St. Paul, so while we expect to
be down due to the closing, we don't anticipate losing the entire amount."We
agree with her that some of the business will go to other St. Paul hotel properties
- and some elsewhere. We also stand by our contention in a June editorial that
the free market worked well at the site.The St. Paul Port Authority sold the property,
which was repossessed three times, to what it deemed the best bidder - Target
- for $8.6 million. The next highest bid of $8.5 million came from local developer
Kevin Lam, who hoped to keep the hotel open.While the loss of hotel taxes is indeed
a concern for the visitors bureau, we'll reiterate our June editorial position
that the Port Authority had no obligation to do what's right by "the Midway"
- whatever that is. Its only obligation was to serve the best interests of its
bondholders.If there's a need for another hotel in the Midway, we're sure the
market will find a way to put it there.
2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Last days near for Midway Sheraton
By Bill Clements, F & C Feature Writer
The Four Points Sheraton hotel in St. Paul's
Midway neighborhood will shut down next Monday, officially putting its 108 full-
and part-time employees out of work.
hotel is being shuttered just ahead of the scheduled Nov. 10 closing date between
the seller, a bond fund for the St. Paul Port Authority (SPPA), and the buyer,
In June, those two inked an $8.6 million
purchase agreement for the hotel, which was built in 1981 through an $8.9 million
bond issue from the SPPA-managed 876 Common Revenue Bond Fund. Proceeds from the
sale will go into the 876 Bond Fund.
to close the hotel on Oct. 31," said Tom Collins, an SPPA spokesman. "We'll
keep the building secure until the 10th and then Target will take over."
Target is expected to tear down the 168,000-square-foot
hotel in order to have room to expand its adjacent Midway Target store into either
a SuperTarget or a Target Greatland.
Target has been eager to make the move since rival retail giant Wal-Mart entered
the Midway neighborhood in 2004. Target did not return calls for this story.
"It's a difficult situation," said Lori Fritts, a
member of SPPA's board of commissioners as well as president of the Midway Chamber
of Commerce. "We will very much miss the Sheraton. They are a member of ours;
we will feel their absence.
"But we also know that
Target's worked hard to get a bigger store in Midway, and so we are happy about
getting more shoppers in the area.
"And with all
the development going on around here," Fritts added, "hopefully it won't
be too long before we get another hotel and banquet facility, one that will better
fit the area - and be financially successful.
the Sheraton's employees will be taken care of."
said the SPPA has been working hard to take care of the hotel's employees.
"We've been very concerned that people are losing their
jobs," Collins said, "and we're doing everything we can to make sure
they get the help they need."
In particular, the
port authority assigned a company that it partners with - St. Paul-based Employer
Solutions Inc. - to help the hotel's soon-to-be-former employees get back on their
Janet Ludden, CEO of Employer Solutions Inc.,
said that working with the SPPA and the state's Dislocated Worker Program's rapid
response team helped the Sheraton situation to be categorized as a "mass
That categorization enabled Ludden, the
state and the port authority to put together a full program of resources for Sheraton
For months now, Ludden said, most of those
employees have been participating in on-site employment-related resources like
job searches and resume and interview classes. In fact, of the 108 employees losing
their jobs, Ludden said, 102 signed up for the program.
absolutely unprecedented," Ludden said. She added that "a healthy percentage"
of the employees have already gotten something set up for the future. The employment
services will continue for a year.
"It's been a
real privilege being involved in what's turned out to be the best possible handling
of a very unfortunate situation," Ludden said.
Paul gets Federal Money for Union Depot and Bike/Walk:
recently passed new federal transportation bill included a $50 million set-aside
for redevelopment of the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul into a multi-modal transportation
hub. It also included $25 million over the next four years for a non-motorized
transportation pilot program for Minneapolis and St. Paul to demonstrate
that biking and walking can play a significant role in urban transportation infrastructure.
It is not yet clear where this bike/walk money will be spent, but the bill specifies
that it can be used for infrastructure and advocacy/promotion, and specifically
mentions Transit for Livable Communities (an organization that the TMO and University
UNITED frequently works with) as a recipient of the funds.
Target is high bidder on Sheraton site
After months of speculation
about a future SuperTarget in the Midway area of St. Paul, Target Corp. has an
$8.6 million purchase agreement with the Saint Paul Port Authority to buy the
Four Points Sheraton hotel property to expand its nearby Target store.
Both Target Corp. and the Saint Paul Port Authority's Board
of Commissioners must approve the sale, according to Port Authority spokesman
Tom Collins, who wouldn't detail Target's plans for the Midway store expansion.
A call to Minneapolis-based Target was not returned at noon. Commissioners will
hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. June 28 to consider the Target purchase agreement.
Target would have 90 days after the Port Authority board's approval
to conduct its due diligence and to submit the proposed sale to a corporation
management committee for final approval. A closing is expected in late October.
The site, near Hamline and Interstate 94, is east of a shopping
center that includes the city's first Wal-Mart store. Target also is turning its
Roseville store, the first Target store in the nation, into a SuperTarget.
Construction of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel was financed
in 1981 through an $8.9 million bond-issue that was part of the Port Authority-managed
876 Common Revenue Bond Fund. Fund bonds are revenue bonds. Any tax revenue of
the Port Authority or any other governmental body does not back these bonds.
The net sale proceeds would be returned to the 876 Common Revenue
Bond Fund, which owns the hotel property. Target's bid was the highest of three,
Collins said. "We are contractually obligated to get the best deal we can
for 876 Fund bondholders and we have done that in this case," Port Authority
President Ken Johnson said.
The hotel's 108 full- and
part-time employees will continue to work until the hotel shuts its doors for
the last time, possibly Oct. 31, Collins said. They will receive a severance package
that includes health insurance coverage for six month for those covered by the
hotel's existing plan, a minimum of two weeks pay, plus one week pay per year
of service, and job placement assistance.
barn imbroglio invites plenty of finger pointing
is no shortage of blame for the failure of the Snelling Avenue bus barn site to
be redeveloped over the past 20 years.
By Bill Clements/F&C
June 16, 2005
fingers at somebody else, and still one of the best pieces of real estate in St.
Paul sits vacant.
Well, not entirely vacant. A few broken-down
buses occupy the 14.2-acre Snelling Avenue bus barn site between University Avenue
and Interstate 94, amid piles of dirt. It's been that way since Metro Transit
tore down the actual bus barn more than three years ago.
terms of prime, re-developable property, the site is near the top of the city
of St. Paul's list. And various redevelopment plans for the site have appeared
and disappeared over the years, stretching back more than 20 years.
Now, St. Paul officials are pressing hard
to get something done by trying to force some action from Metro Transit, which
is operated by the Metropolitan Council and owns 9.5 of the 14.2 acres.
The owners of the adjacent Midway Center shopping mall, New
York City-based RD Management, own the other 4.7 acres and want to buy the rest
of the site to build a $12 million retail center. They, too, are pointing at Metro
"Here's an opportunity for
everyone to be on the same team - the developer, the chambers of commerce, the
city and the Met Council," said Paula Maccabee, a consultant for RD Management
and onetime St. Paul City Council member. "It's very frustrating that we
are not all jumping on the bandwagon for this development."
For its part, the Met Council is pointing at the federal government,
which in 1907 covered 80 percent of the cost of building and maintaining the original
streetcar facility on the site. That facility switched to a bus garage in the
For years, Met Council officials have claimed
the only deal they could do is a land swap, because federal regulations mandated
that if they sold the property they'd have to refund the feds their 80 percent
But information unearthed by the University
United community group in federal documents recently indicates there's a way around
those mandates - as long as a transit-oriented development (TOD) is built on such
Armed with that information, the city is pushing
forward, hoping to develop the property and get it on the tax rolls.
Met Council has always said that a land swap is the only way they can do this,"
said Susan Kimberly, director of St. Paul's department of planning and economic
"But in the past
few months we've learned that's not the only alternative. We've researched the
federal regulations, and a swap is not the only way."
She said the Met Council can sell the property and escrow that money until it
comes time to buy and/or build another site.
added that her department "has been working well with the Met Council on
this. We almost came to an agreement last August about moving them to 807 Hampden
[Avenue]. But that didn't work out.
"I assume they
understand the value of this property, and that they will not be obstructionist.
We've got to get going on this."
Tom Weaver, regional
administrator for the Met Council, said the ball is in the city's court.
"Could we dispose of the Snelling site for TOD purposes
and retain the federal share?" Weaver wrote in an e-mail. "Under certain
circumstances, that is permitted. We have acknowledged as much.
we've also consistently maintained that such an approach is unacceptable to us.
We have a fiduciary duty to use our resources in a manner that provides the greatest
benefit to taxpayers and transit customers - and giving up the Snelling parcel
without getting an acceptable garage site in return would be a complete and inexcusable
abrogation of that duty.
"We have made our position
on this clear to the city on numerous occasions, and they appeared to understand
and accept our concerns. So, it is our position that a swap IS the only option."
In an interview, Weaver added that giving up the Snelling site
without a replacement would rob the Met Council of all its leverage.
"But for St. Paul's interest [in developing it]," he said, "we'd
be content to sit on the property until it came time to build a transit facility
Brian Lamb, general manager of Metro Transit,
said it would try to get funds to build a new East Metro garage in its capital
appropriations for the 2009-2010 biennium.
Part of the
controversy stretches back to late 1997 and early 1998. That's when, during negotiations
over a new East Metro bus garage site (one was built at Cayuga Street and the
Mississippi), Metro Transit officials said a new garage would replace the Snelling
garage, making that site available for redevelopment.
as 1998 wore on with a new governor and then new leadership at the Met Council
and Metro Transit, priorities changed. By October 1998, the Met Council was saying
it needed another new facility, possibly at Snelling, in addition to the one at
People in St. Paul were not happy.
1997 and 1998, Ellen Watters was head of the Midway Chamber of Commerce and part
of negotiations involving the Snelling site. Now she's senior vice president of
economic development for the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.
was very frustrating," she said. "At the Midway Chamber, we definitely
wouldn't have spent the time and energy on helping find them an alternative site
if we hadn't thought there was going to be the payoff of getting redevelopment
at the Snelling site."
Copyright © 2005
Finance and Commerce. All rights reserved. A Dolan
for Temporary Bus Shelter Adjacent to CVS Construction
Midway TMO has been working toward getting Metro Transit to install a temporary
bus shelter on the northwest corner of Snelling and University during construction
of the new CVS store. The new building, when completed, will include an upgraded
bus shelter. In the meantime, however, TMO staff had grown concerned that the
hundreds of bus riders who wait for the bus each day at that location were getting
rained on a regular basis. The initial response from Metro Transit was that there
was no good place to put a temporary shelter. Eventually, Metro Transit came around
to proposing a temporary shelter in front of the Turf Club. The temporary shelter
is getting final approvals and should be installed by June 17.
Dickerman Park CIB Funding In Jeopardy
May 31, 2005
The Parks Department requested $1.475
million for the renovation of Dickerman Park. The Capital Improvement Budget (CIB)
Committee ranked Dickerman 25th out of 44 applications which apparently was not
sufficiently high to get funding. We need lots of people to attend a public hearing
on *Thursday, June 9th at 6:00 pm at City Hall (*please note the date correction)
to speak in favor of the project. Our hope now is to convince the Mayor and City
Council that this project should be funded. We will be putting together some background
materials that will be helpful for those planning on speaking. Unfortunately,
I will be out of the office next week and not able to attend, so please keep in
touch with Russ, who will help coordinate our campaign. Please let us know if
you are able to attend. Thanks, Brian
Goes for Another Lot Split at Lexington
May 27, 2005
On May 20, 2005, Steve Wellington filed
a request with the City to do a lot split on the "Key's portion" of
the Lexington and University corner. This is 2 acre site just south of the recently
demolished shopping center. Wellington recently acquired this from Key's Well
Drilling. The property, extending from Lexington on the east to Dunlap Street
on the west, currently has several commercial buildings and two houses. It was
initially envisioned that this property would be added to the larger shopping
center site to make one large development parcel. Wellington has created 3 separate
lots on the northern portion of the site (Aldi's and TCF), and is now proposing
to subdivide for 2 additional lots on the Keys portion. What started out as a
development site of 8 acres has now been turned into 5 separate parcels - none
of them large enough to create a critical mass for a significant project.
is proposing to sell the western portion of the newly divided Keys lot, abutting
Dunlap Street, to Episcopal Homes. The remaining eastern frontage on Lexington
consists of less than 1 acre. Because of its small size and configuration, it
would appear that Wellington would envision chain store type retail.
Homes is the owner/ developer of the senior housing project at Fairview and University.
University UNITED honored this project when it was built, and recognize its historic
impact as the first housing built on the corridor in perhaps 75 years. This is
an outstanding project that has helped set the standard for all future development
along the corridor. We are delighted that Episcopal Homes is exploring opportunities
to build at other locations along the corridor. However, we have serious questions
about yet another lot split at Lexington that will further erode the possibility
of doing a comprehensive plan or project for this critical intersection.
on this after the holiday.
by New Menard's Store Double
Posted May 25, 2005
Traffic count comparison at Prior and University, before
and after the new Menards opened:
of Menards Driveways
South of Menards Driveways
east of Prior
count information is available.
Rail and Land Use
Posted May 20, 2005
federal government is expected to pay for half the tab of the $850 million Central
Corridor light rail line. If the region is serious about this line, it is very
important that local public officials heed the criteria used in ranking proposals.
At a meeting of the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee on May 19, there was
a presentation spelling out the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) criteria.
In addition to transportation impacts, the FTA is clearly looking for land use
and development that is supportive of light rail, including urban densities, mixed
uses, pedestrian and transit friendly design, underground or structured parking,
supportive zoning, and the like.
A review of recently
approved projects on University Avenue in St. Paul shows that the City is coming
up woefully short. On the northwest corner of Snelling and University, the busiest
intersection in the state, a single-story, single-use building is under construction.
This CVS drive-through pharmacy takes up only one third of the site, with the
remainder used for surface parking.
the main entrance to the store is accessible only from the rear parking lot -
the University Avenue frontage facing the transit stop lacks an entrance door
or windows. Pretty much the same pattern is repeated at Lexington and University,
with a single-use, single story Aldi's grocery store.
City rationalizes these inappropriate developments by claiming that the private
marketplace is dictating these projects. In St. Paul, we are being told that we
have little ability to shape development patterns - the best we can do on the
busiest intersection in the state is accept a single story suburban style drive-through
building. Is this a reasonable position? We think not. In Minneapolis, for instance,
CVS opted to build a multi-story mixed-use project with condominium housing atop
its store. Why are the outcomes in these neighboring cities so different?
years, University UNITED has been pushing for a transit-overlay district, or a
zoning change that would encourage transit oriented development (TOD), as has
been done by virtually every other city in the country considering light rail.
Rather than embrace this approach, in St. Paul we have policies and practices
in place that discourage the very kinds of development called for by the FTA.
Several years ago, this city actively pushed a big-box Home Depot proposal at
Lexington and University with huge public subsidies. More recently the city has
taken actions which completely undercut the efforts of a planning study calling
for TOD at Snelling and Lexington. It chose to leave the old B-3 zoning in place
rather than opt for the new TN zoning which promotes TOD. This zoning/ planning
conflict has been adroitly exploited by developers - exactly as we had predicted
years ago. At that time we were told by the City that consideration of a transit-overlay
district could not occur because, "We expect that some of the impacted property
owners will oppose the proposal at this time because they believe that not all
their current potential development opportunities will meet TOD guidelines."
In effect, the city planning department has been shaping its policies around the
financial interests of the current property owners, rather than the long term
interests of the community. A city Planning Commissioner recently cited this zoning
conflict as a rationale for supporting a TCF drive through bank at Lexington He
stated that "the (Lexington TOD) plan intentionally left this property zoned
B3, and the TOD principles should (only) apply if the market supports it."
Comprehensive planning and zoning take a back seat in St. Paul.
approach was also clearly evidenced by a recent Memorandum of Understanding between
Steve Wellington and the city for the critical 8 acre site at Lexington and University.
The city supported his plan for creation of a TIF district, and a project
that would include a single story grocery store and have "
one pad for a restaurant that includes fast food
", a land use which
is the antithesis of TOD. This Memorandum was signed by the city without any prior
community notification or process, and even before Wellington had acquired the
Our inability to get TOD at Snelling and Lexington
is not because the development community is uninterested or unwilling - but rather
because we have city policies in place that actively discourage it.
no longer just a local issue. As we are preparing our application to FTA for the
Central Corridor line, the entire region needs to insure that we have a land use
policy along University Avenue that supports transit.
Posted May 17,
Last year, and earlier this year, the State Department
of Administration sought funds to demolish the historic Ford Building at University
and Rice. This effort was rebuffed in both the House and the Senate, and we presumed
the issue was resolved. Our efforts then turned towards creating a community process
that would work towards the long term preservation of the building. On May 16,
rumors started to fly about the State taking another run at demolition, based
upon the continued deterioration of the unoccupied structure. I spoke to Niki
Giancola, of the Department of Administration on May 16, and was assured that
the State is not currently seeking funds for demolition - apparently contradicting
a request made to the Senate/ House State Government Finance Conference Committee
just days earlier.
Earlier in the session, according
to the Pioneer Press, the House State Government Finance Committee passed a bill
that would require the Department of Administration to make an effort to lease
the building to a private developer for condos, commercial use or whatever. The
Finance Department responded that they can't comply with that because the building
remodeling was financed with bonds that require that it be used for a public purpose.
The conference committee will have to resolve the legal issues. Commissioner Badgerow
said they will not demolish it because they didn't get the bonding money they
requested to do so and wouldn't ask for an appropriation in the current budget
University UNITED is supporting the preservation
of the Ford Building (see link), as are the National Trust for Historic Preservation,
the Minnesota Preservation Alliance, and numerous community groups and individuals.
The adjoining Christ Lutheran Church, at 105 West University Avenue, has taken
a strong leadership role in this effort. In a letter dated May 16, 2005, Pastor
Susan E. Tjornehoj wrote, "Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill has been
part of this neighborhood since 1910. There was a local community surrounding
the capitol at that time.
Over the years the State has removed much of the
community to make more parking lots. In the process of building parking lots,
part of both the history and soul of the community have been destroyed.
members of this community have a vision of a vibrant, multi-cultural active community
in the area. We believe that the Ford Building can be part of the vision - whether
housing, office, or retail. We can preserve the past while moving into the future."
Ford Building Legislative Language
The State Government Finance Report, Page R58, was amended to
include the following:
"The Ford Building at
117 University Avenue in St. Paul may not be demolished during the biennium ending
June 30, 2007. By January 15, 2006, the commissioner of administration, in conjunction
with interested legislators, private sector real estate professionals, historic
preservation specialists, and representatives of the city of St. Paul, neighboring
property owners, and St. Paul neighborhood associations, must report to the legislature
with recommendations regarding potential means of preserving and using the Ford
Building. The report must include:
availability of potential leases for the building;
2.) constraints on leasing
the building, including the requirement to pay off any state general obligation
bonds previously used in maintaining or rehabilitating the building; and
the cost of restoring and rehabilitating the building and the feasibility of various
means of paying these costs, including potential use of revenue bonds."
amendment was approved by the House and is now in conference committee.
May 19, 2005
Midway Sheraton Hotel
At the University UNITED Board meeting on May 16, a resolution
was passed urging that the St. Paul Port Authority and the City Department of
Planning and Economic Development make every effort to retain an operating hotel
along the University Avenue corridor.
Midway hotel may be sold again
The Four Points
by Sheraton Capitol hotel has lost money for a variety of owners over the years,
including the St. Paul Port Authority.
Clements/F&C Feature Writer
May 12, 2005
St. Paul Port Authority is collecting bids from potential buyers of the Four Points
by Sheraton Capitol hotel in the Midway neighborhood.
spokesperson Tom Collins said the authority is analyzing the "three or four"
bids that have come in so far, though he would not identify from whom or for how
A source said one of the bidders is Target Corp.
and that it has offered $10 million for the property at 400 N. Hamline Ave. Neither
Collins nor a Target spokesperson would confirm those details.
operates a store at 1300 University Ave., adjacent to the Four Points by Sheraton.
That store has encountered stiff competition from the nearby Wal-Mart that opened
last year in the former Kmart location in the Midway Marketplace shopping center.
then, Target has wanted to expand its presence in the area, and one idea is to
replace the existing store with a Target Greatland. Acquiring the Sheraton property
would give Target the room to expand, though that would mean taking the hotel
In an e-mail, Paula Thornton-Greear, spokesperson
for Target Stores, wrote:
"Our Midway store
is a very important part of our overall strategy for the market. However, it is
too premature to speculate on any plans."
Collins emphasized that the
Sheraton may not be sold at all if the price isn't right and that even if it is,
it may remain an operating hotel. He added that the SPPA does not expect a deal
to be finalized until - at the earliest - later in June.
14,000-square-foot, four-story hotel with 198 guest rooms has waged a mostly losing
battle to make a profit since it was built in the late 1980s with SPPA-backed
Several previous owner/operators of the
hotel have defaulted on loans over the years, causing SPPA to repossess the property
a couple times.
SPPA reacquired control of the hotel
in February 2004 when the most recent owners - Grosvenor Properties Ltd., a San
Francisco-based real estate company that focuses on hotels - defaulted on its
By that time, Grosvenor had missed $237,000
in payments. Collins said SPPA has not been making debt payments because of the
property's poor income performance. As of now, $8.7 million is outstanding on
The construction of the hotel was originally
financed in 1986 through a bond issue for $8.9 million from the SPPA's 876 Fund.
February 1974 through May 1991, the SPPA issued $428.8 million in industrial and
commercial revenue bonds that became known as the 876 Fund, according to a petition
filed Sept. 7 in the 2nd District Court of Ramsey County seeking to restructure
the way the troubled fund collects principal and interest payments on its outstanding
That $428.8 million in bonds was used to finance
139 real estate loans for properties located in and around St. Paul. The plan
was that revenue from those projects would be used to pay back bondholders, but
many of those property projects failed.
span a broad range of development classifications, including: industrial (81),
office (34), residential (5), hotel (6), parking ramp (5) and miscellaneous (8).
of Dec. 1, the 876 Fund's reserves were depleted and the net revenues were no
longer enough to make payments on the outstanding bonds, which financial experts
had been forecasting for more than 10 years would happen.
administers the 876 Fund but is not liable for it in any way. Since 1996, SPPA
has been authorized to use $100.3 million to buy back from bondholders and retire
$123.7 million worth of 876 Fund bonds.
decision to sell the Sheraton has nothing to do with the 876 Fund's troubles,
Collins said. "Our decision to sell is based on looking for the best deal
for our bondholders."
"If and when"
the hotel is sold, Collins said, the proceeds would go into the 876 Fund's general
revenues. He added that SPPA has been working hard to maintain the hotel.
took it over and put in a new roof for $560,000 and high-speed Internet for $20,000,"
Collins said. "We continue to address the property improvement plan that
Sheraton has for that property."
In recent years,
SPPA has also acquired through repossession both downtown Radissons - the Radisson
City Center, 411 Minnesota St., and the Radisson Riverfront, 11 E. Kellogg Blvd.
- but neither of those hotels were financed with 876 Fund bonds.
some point in time, when we feel the market is right, we'll try to sell those
properties as well," Collins said. "We want to get out of the hotel
One community leader in the Midway
neighborhood would not want the Four Points Sheraton to close or to be torn down.
would be very opposed to losing the Sheraton," said Brian McMahon, head of
the community development organization University United.
think it's a great asset, one that could be turned around. What we need to do
is build up and improve the area around the hotel to make it a better place to
This article is taken from Finance
and Commerce and is posted with their permission. Their website is www.finance-commerce.com.
Officials consider new option for Snelling
By Bill Clements/F&C Feature Writer
April 28, 2005
The long-running soap opera could be
called "As the Snelling Garage Turns."
now a new episode for the St. Paul drama might be in production.
it's too soon to tell, according to the city of St. Paul and the Metropolitan
Council, two of the main characters in this convoluted saga that also involves
the federal government.
The Met Council owns the 9.5-acre
expanse of prime property at Snelling Avenue and Interstate 94, where Metro Transit
operated the Snelling Avenue Garage until it was demolished in the spring of 2002.
The city has been wanting to develop that property for years.
happening is this: It's possible that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
may be in a position to waive restrictions that have helped prevent the Met Council
from doing anything with the property.
The old bus
barn was built in 1907 as a streetcar manufacturing shop by the Twin City Rapid
Transit Co. All Twin Cities streetcars were built there until 1946; after that,
the garage became a maintenance facility.
barn officially closed in September 2001 and was replaced by a new garage at Cayuga
and the Mississippi River on St. Paul's East Side - the first new garage built
in the Twin Cities in a decade.)
The Met Council holds
that because federal money was used to build and maintain the site, it would want
to recoup its investment "if we liquated that site and didn't reinvest it
for transit purposes," said Steven Dornfeld, spokesman for the Met Council.
that might not be the case, according to Brian McMahon, executive director of
University United, a coalition of community-business groups that advocate for
the sensible development of University Avenue.
points to Transit Cooperative Research Program Report 102 - entitled "Transit-Oriented
Development [TOD] in the United States: Experiences, Challenges, and Prospects"-that
was published in January 2004.
On page 2 of the long
document's summary, the report reads: "Important recent federal initiatives
have been the new joint development ruling (which enables transit agencies to
sell land for TOD even if the land was purchased using federal dollars), new starts
criteria, and various livable community initiatives."
report highlights several private/public, mixed-use developments on land formerly
used by federally funded transit operations like Metro Transit, including Atlanta's
Lindbergh Station, a 1.3 million-square-foot development on a one-time parking
The above-mentioned report says the 1997 Atlanta
development came about "thanks in no small part to FTA's joint development
policy ruling that enables land purchased using federal funds, including parking
lots, to be leased to the private sector as long as the resulting development
is transit supportive."
In an interview, McMahon
said, "We want the feds to stipulate that they will waive whatever restrictions
there are on this property.
"That could really
free things up for developing that site. So let's get off the dime and get Sen.
[Norm] Coleman involved and get this done."
Kimberly, director of the department of planning and economic development for
St. Paul, said it's not that easy. "There may be some flexibility there,
there may not be. We don't know yet."
of the Met Council agreed. "There have been endless discussions with the
city over this issue, so if there is some possibility [for progress], it will
"But we do have a fiduciary responsibility
here. If we can be fiscally responsible and still be a good neighbor and help
St. Paul develop this site, we will. But in the next 25 years, we have to double
the number of bus garages we have."
The Met Council
is looking at alternate garage sites, Dornfeld said, including one on Hampden
Avenue that has angered several developers working on residential developments
in the area.
"We do need a new bus garage in
the East Metro," Dornfeld added, "that's assuming the East Metro wants
This article is taken from
Finance and Commerce and is posted with their permission. Their website is www.finance-commerce.com.