Midway Center site of fire
Midway Center at 1544 university Ave., which was extensively damaged during civil unrest in May 2020, again had a fire Feb. 15. The St. Paul Fire Department was called to the former Family Dollar store after smoke was seen there. By late morning, the fire was out and crews were doing cleanup. It was believed the fire started in a rooftop air conditioning unit.
The shopping center was extensively damaged during civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Just days before the most recent fire, the city issued a letter to New York City-based property owner RK Midway Shopping Center LLC declaring the structure to be a nuisance building.The building was inspected last year by city officials. Its certificate of occupancy was revoked. The building’s framing has severe damage and part of the roof is caved in.
The city’s letter and findings launch a process through which the building owners could go through legislative hearings and be told to remove or repair the structure. According to the initial letter, the city’s structural engineer has informed RK Midway that there must be a complete assessment of the building’s structural integrity by an engineer licensed and registered with the state. The process includes deadlines for action, detailed plans for building removal or repair and eventually a hearing before the city council.
Tenants moved out of the building last spring as their leases were terminated. One former tenant, Thien’s Cajun, has reopened at 712 University Ave. as King Cajun Boiling Seafood.
Frogtown site plans
The corner where a longtime Frogtown bar stood will be transformed into office space, with Feb. 19 St. Paul Planning Commission approval of a needed conditional use permit. The commission approved a permit to allow building height at 981 University Ave. to go to 42 feet 9 inches.
The Frogtown Neighborhood Association made no recommendation by the time the staff report was submitted. The redevelopment was found to be consistent with the neighborhood plan.
Wilder Square moves ahead
A technical change in funding for the Wilder Square project won approval Feb. 10 from the St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board.
Wilder Square is an 11-story building at 750 N. Milton St. It has 136 apartments occupied mainly by low-income elderly and disabled residents. New owner CommonBond Communities is planning to extensively rehabilitate the structure and update the apartments.
Last year city officials approved a deferred HOME loan in an amount up to $1,270,000 for the Wilder Square project. Due to the need to expend existing federal funds within a set time, city Planning and Economic Development staff recommended that the HOME and federal community Development Block Grant or CDBG dollars be swapped.
The swap doesn’t affect the project itself. the purchase and rehabilitation cost is at $32.9 million. CommonBond is drawing on a wide range of funding sources for the project. The intent is to renovate apartments and not displace existing residents.