By JANE MCCLURE
A request from Hamline Midway Coalition to expand its southern boundary to take in Midway Center, Midway Marketplace and the planned Major League Soccer stadium met a pointed but polite “no” Jan. 4 from Union Park District Council (UPDC). Although UPDC did extend an invitation to HMC to discuss the matter further in March, HMC Executive Director MichaelJon Olson said he believes the matter is moot at this point.
Union Parks’ land use committee has agreed to jump-start joint working efforts on Midway Center and soccer stadium planning, with the goal of meeting this month.
HMC recently contacted Union Park staff and council leadership to raise the idea of a boundary change. But no one from District 11 attended the Jan. 4 meeting, which irked some of the Union Park board members.
District 13 Union Park’s current northern boundary is the south side of University Ave. District 11 Hamline-Midway is on the north side of the street. Some Hamline-Midway residents and district council members contend that the planned soccer stadium at Snelling and St. Anthony avenues, and the future redevelopment of the Midway Center shopping center, will have more of an impact on their neighborhood than on neighborhoods to the south.
At a June 2016 St. Paul Planning Commission public hearing on the stadium site plan and Midway Center master plan, HMC Board and committee members said their planning district needed a say on the plans. HMC Development Committee Member Renee Spillum said at that time that her biggest concern was that District 11 had no say in the plans, even though her neighborhood would be more affected than Union Park.
But UPDC Board members said Jan. 4 that they have always invited HMC and Hamline-Midway residents to participate in site discussion and to be part of working groups focused on Midway Center and the stadium. Very few residents and district council members have shown up.
“It’s not like we’ve locked the door and kept them out of meetings,” said UPDC Board Member David Rasmussen.
The board also noted that they haven’t always had the level of involvement in major projects that they would like. UPDC Executive Director Julie Reiter said the district council had to learn about the soccer stadium groundbreaking last month through media reports.
UPDC Board Member Katie Jarvi, who chairs the district council’s development and land use committee, said the request might be an opportunity for more collaboration. “But I don’t see us ceding a large part of our district.”
“My first reaction is absolutely no,” said UPDC Board Member D.J. Johnston. “We’ve represented that area for a long time.” He and others said the area had been well-served as part of District 13.
Another concern is Skyline Tower. Union Park has worked with the hundreds of high-rise residents, many of whom are immigrants, engaging them on a range of community issues from park development to pedestrian safety and land use planning tied to Green Line light rail.
“We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to that area,” said UPDC Board Member Josh Capistrant.
Then there is the planned park on Griggs St. just south of University Ave. UPDC has worked closely with Gordon Parks School on park plans.
A change would also affect the Howard Park neighborhood around the former Midway Hospital and the Iris Park neighborhood southwest of Fairview and University avenues. UPDC has been involved in planning for improvements at Iris Park.
St. Paul has 17 citizen participation or planning districts, which were set up in 1975 up to facilitate communication on issues and give feedback to the city. The council runs a wide variety of programs, which varies by neighborhood, and do planning for their neighborhoods.
Making a boundary change means following a petition process with 75 percent of property owners agreeing to the change, or having both councils agree to shift boundaries.
Changes to district council boundaries are nothing new in St. Paul. HMC has discussed a shift of its southern boundary in the past, although the issue hasn’t been raised for many years.
About five years ago what was District 6 North End-South Como became North End after South Como neighborhood residents voted to join District 10 and Como Community Council.
In 1982 a section of West 7th St. joined District 9 West 7th/Fort Road Federation and seceded from District 15 Highland District Council. In the 1970s what had been Southwest Area District Council split into Highland and Macalester-Groveland community councils.
UPDC formed in 2007 when the Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, and Lexington-Hamline councils merged. But those councils were always in the same planning district.