Zoning changes approved
Changes to zoning in mixed-use corridors in Hamline Midway neighborhood won St. Paul City Council approval June 24. Approval follows a public hearing, at which one person testified. Earlier this year the plan won a recommendation of approval from the St. Paul Planning Commission.
The intent is to change zoning to promote long-term redevelopment as denser, mixed-use corridors. Current property uses will not have to change and can continue indefinitely.
Property owners were notified of the changes, and there was little public comment. Only one neighborhood resident, Benita Warns, has testified on the plan at City Council and Planning Commission public hearings.
She has asked that Thomas between Hamline and Pascal St. be rezoned from two-family residential to single-family residential, saying that was discussed several years ago in the community. City staff has countered that such a rezoning would make several duplexes in that area nonconforming and recommended against the change.
In December 2013, the Planning Commission passed a resolution initiating the District 11 Hamline Midway Mixed-Use Corridors 40-Acre Zoning Study. The resolution called for a study area defined as including all blocks with street frontage on Snelling and Hamline avenues between University Ave. and Pierce Butler Rte., and all blocks with street frontage on Thomas and Minnehaha avenues between Hamline and Snelling avenues. Almost a year later the commission released its findings.
Some properties along Snelling, from Pierce Butler Rte. to Sherburne Ave., will be rezoned from various commercial and residential uses to a traditional neighborhoods designation. Along Hamline Ave., properties near Minnehaha, Van Buren and Thomas avenues will be rezoned for traditional neighborhoods use.
Along Minnehaha, the Hamline Midway Branch Library, and former Knox Presbyterian Church will be rezoned. The rezoning of the library is not intended to change its use, according to city staff, but to create a contiguous zoning parcel. Another parcel rezoned for traditional neighborhoods use is the former Samaritan Hospital site, now an office and parking ramp complex, on Thomas.
To see maps and read a city staff report of the zoning changes, go to http://stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=5545
More funds for Skyline Tower
Skyline Tower’s improvement project has gotten a needed boost. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), voted unanimously June 10 to approve a deferred $750,000 loan for the high-rise building at 1247 St. Anthony Ave.
The loan will be part of a larger funding package to rehabilitate the building, which provides housing for low-income families. The 504-unit building opened in 1971 and offers efficiency, one, and two-bedroom units. Most of the units are Section 8 housing. The building also includes staff offices and community gathering/common areas.
Skyline is the largest single HUD-subsidized building in Minnesota. Its original owner, Sentinel Management, sold the property in 1999 to CommonBond Communities. CommonBond addressed some immediate building maintenance needs after the purchase but has plans to do more work. In 2010, CommonBond refinanced the first mortgage debt through the use of a refinancing program to reduce the interest rate of its first mortgage. The capital needs assessment completed as part of the refinance identified some immediate items to be completed within 36 months. That timeline has passed so work needs to be done to keep the building from going into default with HUD.
One big need for the high-rise is to replace all windows, replace all plumbing/riser supply valves and waste and vent piping. The HRA action would allocate $750,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant funds toward the project.
Total project cost, which is being covered by number of sources, is $12.7 million.
Saxon site gets funding
An area project is among those that will be helped as the Metropolitan Council June 23 awarded more than $3.5 million in brownfield cleanup grants as part of the Livable Communities program. The funding helps create jobs, clean up land for redevelopment, increase tax base, produce affordable and market rate housing, and promote other public and private investment in the region. The council approved 16 grants to five metro area communities. The awards will help clean up 22 acres, create or retain more than 900 jobs, increase the net tax base by more than $2.8 million, help to produce and preserve 800 affordable homes, and encourage more than $338 million in private investment.
“These grants provide a remarkable return on investment and serve as a critical redevelopment tool,” said Council Chair Adam Duininck. “The funding leverages an additional investment of both public and private dollars, and the projects support job creation, increase the tax base, create housing opportunities, and promote a more livable environment.”
In addition to grants for contamination investigation and polluted site cleanup, this round of grants includes just under $200,000 in awards for a new pilot category of grants. These grants encourage development on sites in areas of concentrated poverty that show potential for job creation. One went toward work at the former Saxon Ford site on University Ave. in Frogtown. The city received $22,500 to help fund environmental site assessments and a hazardous materials abatement plan at a one-acre site on University Ave. that included both residential and commercial uses. A portion of the site once housed a gas station and was used more recently for detailing new cars.
The Council received 24 applications this funding round, requesting more than $7 million.
Ground broken for project
Ground was broken June 23 for a long-awaited housing project at 2700 University Ave. The $54 million mixed-use building will include commercial space and housing. It is being developed by Flaherty & Collins.
The six-story building will have 248 apartments, 3,000 square feet of main floor retail space and two levels of underground parking. It will include a saltwater swimming pool and a cyber café.
The site has been eyed for several years for redevelopment because of its proximity to Green Line light rail. Wellington Management had plans to build there several years ago, but those plans stalled in an economic downturn. The site is being sold to the new developers based in Indianapolis.
Most of the apartment units will be market rate, although about 50 will be reserved for people who earn 50 percent or less of the area median income.
The project has drawn on a number of financing options. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), voted unanimously in May to approve issuance of conduit housing revenue bonds in a maximum amount of $9 million for the project at 2700 University Ave.
Developer Flaherty and Collins plans a mixed-use project on a 1.8-acre vacant site, with 198 market rate housing units, 50 affordable housing units and 3,000 square feet of retail space.
With conduit bonds, the city serves as a pass-through source of financing. Such financing doesn’t affect the city’s credit rating.
In October 2014, the City Council and HRA approved a tax increment financing (TIF) district for the site. The project will receive $8.3 million in TIF, as well as up to $1 million in HOME funds. The project also has about $1.9 million in financing through a Metropolitan Council Livable Communities grant.