Development Roundup, March 2019



Pawn America changes

A new bank will rise at the southeast corner of University Ave. and Fry St. in the months ahead, replacing a-vacant Pawn America building. TOLD Development vice president Trent Mayberry outlined plans in February for Union Park District Council’s land use committee.

The project doesn’t need any specific city approvals such as zoning changes or variances, so the presentation was for informational purposes. The bank is to be built this construction season. The bank won’t have a drive-through lane.

The one-story building will be occupied by Bank of America and will be about 4,700 square feet. Its exterior will be feature stucco and simulated stone. The main entrance will be at University and Fry.

The new building will have parking on its east side and at the rear. One complaint about Pawn American was that it had some off-street parking off of Fry, which created a hazard for other vehicles and pedestrians. That parking area isn’t in the new building plans.

Sale of the property means significant changes. The site itself is about 7,800 square feet. It is zoned for traditional neighborhoods use.

Some UPDC committee members discussed whether or not a mixed-use development, or even a more substantial development, should be considered, especially because a former dental office east of the old pawn shop has also been vacant for some time. But Mayberry cited the space constraints of the former Pawn America site. Also, a new occupant for the former dental office may be announced soon.

Pawn America had operated at 1636 University Ave. since 1997. In 2014 plans were announced for a building facelift, that never materialized.

Pawn America officials contacted city licensing staff in 2017 about canceling their license to operate a pawn shop there. The business closed but sought to reopen last year. Rixmann Companies, which owns Pawn America, told city officials that the store was closed during bankruptcy and reorganization of Pawn America.

In Aug. 2018 the St. Paul City Council approved a request to reopen the pawn shop. Some neighbors objected, but city staff determined that since the pawn shop use had been discontinued for less than one year, a new conditional use permit didn’t have to be sought. The building has remained vacant.

Vandalia Tower is sold

Vandalia Tower, the former King Koil mattress factory that has become a key piece of its neighborhood creative enterprise zone, was sold last month for about $14 million.

Owner-developer First 7 first sold the property to Chicago-based NorthPond Partners.

The property at 550 Vandalia St. was a King Koil mattes factory for many years. It was transformed into a hub of activity, as new features were blended with historic architecture.

The 5.5-acre property has seven buildings with an iconic water tower, and has tenants including Lake Monster Brewery, Independent Film Maker Project, Munster Rose, Hackwith Design, Union Park Marketing, and other entrepreneurs.

Development grants

Area projects are among those receiving state and Metropolitan Council grants. On Feb. 29, the St. Paul City Council voted to accept more than $4 million in grants from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Metropolitan Council Livable Communities (MCLC) grants.

The Raymond Station 126-dwelling unit mixed-use development, planned for 2250 University Ave. W., received an MCLC grant of $483,900.

Fairview Business Center, a project of Minneapolis-based Hillcrest Development, also received $441,600 in MCLC Tax Base Revitalization (TBRA) funds.

North West University Dale received $949,250 in MCLC Demonstration Account Transit Oriented Development funding and $233,700 in a TBRA grant.

DEED Contamination Cleanup and Investigation grants were awarded, including $228,300 for Fairview Business Center, 641 Fairview Ave. N., $237,630.00 for North West University Dale, and $93,813 for O’Gara’s Vintage 2 (Selby-Snelling) sites.


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