Proponents plead for projects left out of capital improvement list funding


Capital projects to be approved next month

Several capital improvement projects are headed for approval at year’s end as part of the 2016 city budget. But proponents of projects left out are still making their case for funding. That includes the boosters of the Victoria Theater in Frogtown, who filled a city budget meeting room in October to ask that $200,000 previously allocated be restored.

City Council members said they are seeking money to restore the old theater near University and Victoria, but that they need to find the funding it is eligible for. One possible source is sales tax dollars.  The Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) recommended funding for Victoria Theater, but city staff said it isn’t eligible for the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds suggested.

Mayor Chris Coleman also cut funding recommended for the Model Cities Central Exchange mixed-use development near University and Victoria to reallocate funds and balance the capital budget. He also dropped funding for work on the long-planned Pierce Butler Route expansion. That was shelved because city officials are concerned about project costs and want to see a sustainable source of long-term money identified before a multi-million dollar project moves ahead.

Ward One Council Member Dai Thao said he wanted to see funds restored for the projects. He is especially concerned that the theater restoration project will lose momentum. He is also unhappy that area residents who have waited for Pierce Butler Route reconstruction must continue to wait.

Several area projects are still in the running for city dollars, including Hamline-Midway neighborhood’s May Park improvements, relocation of Fire Station 20 in the Cretin-Vandalia area, Frogtown’s Scheffer Recreation Center design, and work on Frogtown Farm Park on Minnehaha Ave. But, unless there is change, other projects including additional work at Dickerman Park at University and Fairview, and completion of the Charles Avenue Bicycle Boulevard, will languish.

The committee and its citizen task forces spent several months reviewing more than 130 projects and city programs. Requests totaled more than $166 million, far more than was available. For 2016-2017, the committee allocated $22 million in capital improvement bonds, $14.8 million in municipal-state aid (MSA) and $8 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars.

Funding site cleanup

Two Midway area redevelopment sites are vying for regional funding. The St. Paul City Council Oct. 28 unanimously approved several applications for funding. The city’s Department of Planning and Economic development (PED) will seek contamination cleanup and investigation grants for the former Sholom Home site at N. Snelling Ave. and Midway Pkwy. and the former Lexington Branch Library at 1080 University Ave. They are seeking the grant funds from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Metropolitan Council Tax Base Revitalization Account Program.

Both sets of applications were due Nov. 1. West Side and Highland neighborhood projects are also vying for funding.

Both sources of funding are frequently tapped by the city for cleanup and site redevelopment. Several redevelopment sites along Green Line light rail have reaped the benefits of the funding.

In the case of each type of grant, the city typically applies in conjunction with developers and acts as an administrator the grants if they are obtained.

The city is a participant in the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Grant Program, which allows it to apply for grants including the tax base grant project.

A decision on the grants is expected by year’s end or early 2016.

Development project is still vacant, city says

One of University Avenue’s many redevelopment projects hit a road bump Oct. 21. The St. Paul City Council voted to assess a $2,025 vacant building fee on the developers of the former Old Home Dairy building at University and Western avenues.

A partnership of Sand Companies and Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation is working together as Old Home Plaza LLC to redevelop the former dairy building into mixed-use development. New housing is under construction behind the building. The project will create 60 units of housing. Total cost is $16.9 million.

The original dairy building is considered historic and is more than 100 years old.

The developers and city officials have been debating the building’s status since March.

City building officials contended that the original Old Home structure needed to be re-registered as a vacant building. The developers objected, noting that they have pulled the required permits needed to renovate the building and are working with city officials on redevelopment. They questioned whether they should continue to pay  the vacant building fee. But developers didn’t attend public hearings to contest the fee.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here