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Federation Update - July 2014
The Board meeting was packed to overflowing with residents who have been having problems with homeless people, especially along Randolph. It seems to be much worse this year than any previous year, and the residents are very upset about it.
Councilmember Dave Thune spoke first, and acknowledged that this year is not only unusual, but that there are big problems throughout the city. No one is exactly sure what has changed or why there are so many this year. They are also much more aggressive than in the past, particularly with panhandling at off-ramps.
One resident who lives close to I-35E said that there are many who are drunk every night who are sleeping down on the bike path. There is broken glass in her yard from their bottles and they keep her awake fighting and shouting all night long. They have her afraid to leave her house out of concern about what they will do when she is gone.
Other residents pointed to the panhandling at the I-35E off-ramp as the main source of the problem. There seems to be an organized effort there, with some signs that the ones holding signs were dropped off by others to collect their money. They seem to collect quite a lot, too. Competition for the best spots appears to be driving the fights.
From that location, many residents noted the walking traffic all the way down to Dannecker’s to buy liquor. There were reports that people who were visibly intoxicated were sold liquor at the store. Some also alleged that they opened early, before the legal hours, to sell to some of the homeless and possibly even on Sunday [Editor’s note: Dannecker’s is open seven days a week from 8 a.m.]. Councilmember Thune promised to look into this immediately; as this is a serious matter that city licensing can take care of right away. This was noted as a top concern for the board.
Officer Karels and Sgt. Casey from St. Paul Police were on hand to talk about what they knew and how to report problems. All 911 calls are sent to a central dispatcher that is supposed to assign a priority, but the police on our beat knew that they were sometimes not assigned with the proper urgency needed to deal with a dangerous situation. If there is an issue with your safety or the safety of someone else, they impressed upon everyone the importance of making that clear so that the priorities will be set appropriately.
Sgt Casey also said that the police are not very good at dealing with chronic problems such as this, and explained how limited the space is in detox here in St. Paul. He stressed his own very strong desire to work with the neighborhood to do what he could and provide the assistance where they are at their best, which is the immediate problems. He encouraged people to call for just about any problems, regardless of how concerned they were at the time.
The neighbors will be organizing and meeting with social service agencies to seek a more comprehensive solution to the problems noted. That meeting has not been set, but everyone present pledged to form a larger “block club” and keep in touch while the bigger picture can be addressed.
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Federation Update June 2014
Xcel Energy Pipeline
The Board heard from Xcel Energy on the progress of the pipeline replacement that has started and will continue through most of the summer. The most intense operation, boring a hole under I-35E, is going well and should be done far ahead of schedule. But the bad news is that Lexington Parkway will have to close for more than a month, from May 27 to July 3. The problem is that in order to avoid disturbing the trees in the median, they have to cut a hole very close to the existing sewer line — and that will be a very delicate operation.
Parking Requirements and Restrictions
The City has proposed changing the number of spaces required for properties zoned T-1 and T-2 (Traditional neighborhood, such as apartments over a storefront) from 1 space per unit to 0.75. While many on the board found no problem with requiring fewer spaces for each building, the change also automatically changes the maximum number of spaces per building. That’s set at 150% of the minimum without what’s called a “special conditional use permit,” or special permission from the city. Most developers want more spaces than the new limit would set, so it makes redevelopment more difficult and expensive.
The Board was heavily divided on this issue and it generated a lot of discussion. The West End has more zoning like this than any other part of the city. The board ultimately voted on a 5-3 vote to ask the city not to lower the parking requirements.
GermanFest, June 21-22
The Board had a lot to prepare for the upcoming GermanFest at the Schmidt Brewery next month. We will be selling the beer that is donated to raise money for the Federation, so we have to file for a temporary permit. Many other smaller preparations are in place and the festival is going to be a great time for the whole family. The website is up with the schedule at germanfestmn.org. See page one for details of a very busy two days of fun!
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Federation Update - April 2014
The Hazelden Clinic at 680 Stewart Ave. is preparing for a new building to improve their services. The old “Mansion” part is going to remain, but the rest of the facility, built largely in the 1960s, is scheduled to be replaced starting this year. The Board heard about the plans and the need for three zoning variances. The main purpose of the new facility is to improve outpatient day services and does not increase the 55 beds that residential care has now — but that was grandfathered in with the new building and comes up as a variance on the new project. The other two variances are based on the lay of the site, which includes a lot of land that is not developable due to caves underneath and slope problems. The Board voted unanimously to send a letter of support for the new facility, which includes a significant increase in the number of parking spaces and an outlet to their parking lot on Drake Street, alleviating many neighbor concerns.
Natural Gas Pipeline
Xcel Energy plans to start drilling under I-35E on May 1st, weather permitting, near Eleanor Street. Neighbors will be notified about this large project, which is part of an upgrade to their 1940s-era pipeline running through the community. Xcel is going to take great pains to minimize the disturbance to residents as the pipeline runs up Chatsworth and turns to Victoria. However, there is nothing they can do about the noise and vibration that will come when they drill under the interstate. People to be affected by this will be contacted shortly and told exactly what is going to happen in their neighborhood and when once the plans are finalized and the weather is better known.
There are not many new details, but negotiations are proceeding for a keg house partner. We hope to have an announcement very soon!
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The Fort Road Federation Board Meeting was held on February 10 at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: March 10. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Joe Musolf from the City was on hand to explain how the transfer of eight houses in Little Bohemia is going to progress. The Board was very interested in how this will occur and asked many questions. The City is selling these houses to the Federation for $1 each and allocating $890,000 for their renovation. All of them are on the vacant house list and we are eager to get families back living in them. The Federation has a developer fee that comes along with each one, but at the end of the process we are on the hook for any profit or loss should they not sell for as much as we expect. The rehab will start in earnest on April 1, so we can expect a lot of construction in Little Bohemia this spring!
Joe Cochrane from the St. Paul Police stopped in simply to introduce himself and get to know us better. He is a lifelong West Ender who now works the beat on West Seventh. He let everyone know that the police are very eager to have workshops to inform businesses and residents how to make them less attractive to crime and how to report anything that we see in the most effective manner. If you are interested in having something like this or just getting to know our officers please contact Betty at the Federation at 298-5599.
The Transportation Committee has started the process of updating the District 9 plan to include a new section on ways of moving in and around West Seventh. A decision was made to classify it by the type of transportation, such as walking, biking, driving, and public transit. A number of plans for West Seventh are being put forward by different groups, and our first step is to understand what is being proposed and deciding how we will fit in with them. This includes a proposal for streetcars on East and West Seventh, potential Light Rail somewhere in the corridor, bike lanes, more and better pedestrian crossings on West Seventh, and possible bus service upgrades.
People are moving into the Bottling House units even as the rest of the project is progressing, so we have a lot of new residents here on West Seventh already! The project should be complete by this summer, but no grand opening is planned. The Federation is moving ahead with some proposals for the large Keg House and the smaller office building, but nothing has been finalized yet.
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The Fort Road Federation Board Meeting was held on January 13 at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: February 10. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Development on Seventh
The Board briefly discussed what very shortly after the meeting became a very big story on West Seventh. At the time of the meeting we knew that the Free At Last Church (formerly Temple Baptist) on Seventh between Chestnut and Eagle had been sold to a developer, Opus, who was also interested in Seven Corners Hardware — and the next day it was announced that this sale was complete. Seven Corners owns most of the block that is bounded by Chestnut / Seventh / Eagle / Exchange, so we were very concerned about what might be going in, but there were few details. There is no proposal at this time, but talk has centered on new retail along Seventh and a hotel on the rest of the block. We will watch this carefully.
The Board did spend a lot of time on the proposal in front of them, which is to remove the Dairy Queen at 280 West Seventh, just down the street. Caribou Coffee and Bruegger’s want to go jointly in that spot with a facility very much like the Dairy Queen, but a little bigger. The plan submitted was designed to service car traffic into downtown more than the neighborhood. The Board rejected the proposal because it requires a variance from the existing zoning, is contrary to the Master Plan, and includes more parking than the operation would need and a drive-thru window as well. Given the development pressure just down the street it was deemed totally out of character to add more car pressure to the area at a time when transit upgrades and large increases in density are being proposed.
There are proposals in the works for both the Rathskeller and the old Keg House that have not been finalized. These should come to full realization by this spring. The Rathskeller is expected to include a small diner type restaurant of some kind on the first floor, and the Keg House will include a large open-air retail operation, something like the Global Market at the old Sears building on Lake Street in Minneapolis. The interest is increasing all the time and potential developers are becoming much more serious about the brewery project now that the residential part is taking shape. This is exactly what the Federation hoped.
The city will sell the remaining houses that they own in Little Bohemia to the Federation at the end of January, barring a last minute change. This will allow the Federation to start full scale renovation of these properties this spring.
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The Fort Road Federation Board Meeting was held on December 9 at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: January 13. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Streetcars on Seventh
The City of St. Paul has selected Seventh Street, from Randolph to Arcade on the East Side, as the preferred route for the first modern streetcar to return to the city. Michelle Beaulieu, City Planner with the Planning and Economic Development Department, who is in charge of the project, spoke to the Board at length about what this means, how the route was chosen, and how the process will continue from here.
The route was chosen because of the relatively heavy bus ridership that exists today plus what they hope to gain by making it a more permanent rail system. In addition, there are a number of potential redevelopment sites along the route that might be spurred along by the addition of a streetcar, especially up by Seven Corners and at the far end of Randolph, near Shepard. The redevelopment of the Schmidt Brewery is also a source of potential new riders.
The cost is estimated to be $60 million per mile, or about $246 million over the whole route — but this is only an estimate for planning purposes. Many details have not been brought into the picture yet, so much may change. That estimate is only for the streetcar system and does not include any other improvements to the street. The cars should stop every ¼ mile, or about every 4 blocks.
The Board was generally supportive and wants to work with this program, but had concerns to follow up on. Having a streetcar stop at Randolph seemed pretty unreasonable to the Board, since the biggest need for local bus service is west of Randolph to Otto or even Montreal — especially with the new development at Victoria Park that will bring a lot more new residents. Parking should not change along the route, either, and the Board was careful to note that none of the existing parking can be lost without a serious problem.
There will be more hearings and discussion on the topic as it goes along. There are also studies being done by the Metropolitan Council on upgraded bus service, which could work alongside the streetcar, and Ramsey County is interested in restarting a process for the “Riverview Corridor” that will bring some kind of rapid transit to the area as well. So there is a lot of work to be done to figure out how any of these upgrades can be done and how they might work together.
Planning is moving along for this festival of all things German-American to be held on June 21-22 at the Schmidt Brewery. It’s mostly a fundraiser for the Federation being put together in partnership with FILO, which has a lot of experience holding events like this. But for us it will be an event to celebrate the largest group of immigrants who settled in West Seventh and created things like the Schmidt Brewery in the first place.
It will be a free and family-friendly event. Summit Brewing company has agreed to donate beer, but there will be much more than that, including music, dancing, and arts. Official events will stop in the evening, but we are encouraging local groups and restaurants to hold their own events at that time. The Board even approved money to buy replicas of Schmidt stocking caps from the 1950s and is looking at more merchandise that will be part of the festivities.
DQ Site Development
The Dairy Queen at 280 West Seventh has closed for good and the property has been sold. Jon Fahning of Shingobee Real Estate presented development plans on behalf of a proposed combination Caribou Coffee and Bruegger’s Bagels shop — a new configuration for both companies.
The proposal calls for a one-story building with about the same square footage as the DQ, a drive through window and 32 parking spaces.
Questions from the board focused on the importance of that block of West Seventh and its potential to expand the feeling of that historic area. There was disappointment that the developers have not decided to make the property much more interesting and connected to the neighborhood by looking at a two or three story multiuse development. There was concern that the usual corporate design factors would create a clichéd design that fails to relate to the heritage buildings across the street. Questions about the effect on traffic were also raised.
The company is working with the City on many issues. No Federation action was taken at this point.
Proposal from Take Action Minnesota
Take Action Minnesota sought Federation partnership and participation in an educational event to promote awareness of the MNSure health insurance exchange, with the West 7th Business Association as another potential partner. After some discussion the board declined the partnership proposal.
Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association
A proposal to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority to grant development rights to 17 properties in the neighborhood did not pass. Since HRA has already approved development rights to eight properties, LBNA is going ahead and negotiating the development agreement with the City.
Victoria Park Neighborhood Association
Monthly meetings have been held, building the base, and involvement in the Victoria Park Advisory Committee continues.
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by Erik Hare
The Fort Road Federation Board Meeting was held on September 9 at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: October 14. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
The Board started with a tour of the project so far. The “Castle” part of the site has been stripped bare and is ready for redevelopment, so it takes a bit of imagination to see what it will be when it is done. The Bottling House on the far eastern side is progressing nicely, and a few example units were in place to see how it will look. In short, it is fabulous, and we were all very impressed by the progress that Dominium is making. The office and Rathskeller are taking shape nicely as well.
When we reconvened for our regular meeting, Dave Thune presented the Board with the door to one of the old copper kettles that was salvaged long ago by a former worker there to be used as a centerpiece somewhere in the project.
Jim Miller is going to be retained by the Federation to head up negotiations for the reuse of the Keg House, the large building right on Seventh, as well as the development of an “event center” around the Rathskeller. This is a big development that should move things along well. Blue Ox mini-golf did not need anything new from the Board at this time, but is moving forward under the assumption that we will be able to come to a deal in the future.
There are three fields laid out, one on the neighborhood side of the tracks and two on the south side. The pond is not going to move from its current location right by the school. That means the lighted field on that side will be next to the housing, which is less than desirable. A small community garden is included on the neighborhood side of the tracks, along with a bread oven and a pavilion. Crosby Park will be extended beyond the “tunnel” under Shepard, and connected. A lot of discussion ensued on the use of the more passive fields and how they might be scheduled or otherwise divided up, which is of great concern to the local residents who can see a big demand for them. All in all, the project is rather intense with a lot of uses put into not a big space.
Some residents were on hand to talk about a group, called the “Victoria Park Neighborhood Association,” which is springing up from this process, and how it will be active in keeping the park well maintained and used in an orderly way. They are also going to be watching new traffic counts that will be taken on Otto and other streets. There is a lot of concern about how all these projects will affect the number of cars through the neighborhood, and a good baseline that includes Nova Academy and its traffic has to be developed before they start.
A Community Neighborhood Housing Services grant is in the works for support for the private rehab effort that is progressing well in the neighborhood. A few problem properties have been taken care of and everyone is pleased that things are starting to get moving again. The Federation will begin as the developer for five of the houses in the neighborhood as soon as final approval is given, which should happen shortly.
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The Fort Road Federation Board met Aug. 12, at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: Sept 9. Info: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Schmidt Brewery Project
The Board has spent a lot of time this month going over the details of the Brewery redevelopment and making sure they are all moving ahead. This big project has to run like clockwork in order to make all the great things happen for the community.
The old Keg House, which is the building at the south and west of the project, is being evaluated by a potential redeveloper. This is important for the finances of the Federation itself but also is a critical part of the entire project. The Board has stated that the Rathskeller, in the basement of the office building, should remain a public space rather than be turned over to a restaurant or other venue. The vision that the Board backs is an “Event Center” which can be used for public gatherings as well as some private events, and would be open for catering.
In order to make that happen and keep the office renovation moving ahead, a partner to move the Keg House part of the project forward is critical, because of the income it can generate. That should happen soon if the current plans move ahead, but details are being negotiated. Development of the office space is moving ahead and interested tenants are being courted. There is also space for a small restaurant on the first floor, which is the main focus at this time.
In the Dominium part of the development, some exciting new spaces have been carved out that can be used by the artist residents to connect with the community. These include a small theater space and a large atrium that can function as a multipurpose gallery or performance space. The Board is happy that we are getting more public value in this project than we originally expected.
A lot of time has also been spent negotiating and developing plans for the Blue Ox mini-golf park at the far end of the project on West Seventh. The footprint has been set and the plans now call for 18 holes of mini-golf along with a small clubhouse. A final commitment has not been made, pending the agreement on the Keg House next door, but we hope to have that in place at the September meeting if at all possible. That will meet Blue Ox’s plans to have the mini-golf park open in June of 2014 and give us time to start putting in the utilities that are needed before the ground freezes.
Some parts of this redevelopment are still up in the air. Space has been reserved for a potential new building behind the mini-golf as part of the Keg House plans, but without much detail assigned to it. The exact nature of the café space in the office building is pending a potential partner as is the Event Center at the Rathskeller.
The rest of the project is moving ahead quickly. The openings through the site that will become Webster Street and the private parking area that will follow the line of Oneida Street have been firmed up and are taking shape, so the outline of the whole project can be seen. The Keg House is still torn apart and exposed, but work to enclose that project is continuing so that the final form can be seen. Townhouses along Erie Street have risen to show how that space will be filled in.
As the project continues the Board will remain on top of the details that are important to the West End as a community. It’s a big project with many parts, and all of them are moving forward.
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BY ERIK HARE
The Fort Road Federation Board met June 10, at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: July 8. Info: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
The Board spent a lot of time discussing work in the Little Bohemia neighborhood. This is the area North of West Seventh running from Grand Avenue to St Clair that has been undergoing extensive rehab over the last five years.
The city was going to be in charge of as many as nine more houses in this area, but the Federation is looking to take over these projects. The reasons for this are that the City has been moving very slowly on the ones that they have done, and only intend to do one at a time. The Federation can achieve more income on its own by being the developer on these projects and doing them all under the same project framework. Given that the Federation has been pinched for money lately this is a very important change for us.
There is risk involved for the Federation in doing this, but we have a long track record in the past of making this work. We hope to have the work started in 2013, which means that this will have to move ahead very quickly. The Board voted to pursue this, but held off approval of the actual purchase for renovation until we have more information on each property and the finances are in place.
After these are done, there are still more properties that have the potential to be redeveloped and put back onto the market in that neighborhood. They will be looked at more carefully in the next few months.
PALACE REC CENTER AND PLAYGROUND
The Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) for the city has a long process for determining which projects will move ahead. A completely remodeled recreation center building at Palace Playground has been on our asking list for many years, and it looks as though it is going to be funded this year. The CIB committee has recommended that it move ahead as one of the top priorities for the city. This is a big investment in the West End and something that many people have been working hard on for many years, so it is very exciting news!
ARTS MINI-GOLF AT THE BREWERY
The Blue Ox Mini-Golf art project has gotten the grant that they need to move ahead. This will be an exciting addition to West Seventh and the Schmidt project generally. It should be ready to open in 2014 along with the rest of the project.
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The Fort Road Federation Board met March 11, 974 West Seventh. Annual Meeting, April 24, 7pm. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Streetcars on 7th?
Michelle Beaulieu, Planning Dept., presented status of the St. Paul Streetcar plan. An initial screening of potential streets was done, and West Seventh was identified as a route that could involve several connections that will go on for more study — the most important along the 74 bus route and one down West Seventh all the way to St. Paul Avenue and into Highland. After this round, the city will come up with five to ten routes to continue studying.
The Board was eager to hear what this means and how we should respond. A streetcar is not like LRT. It does not have a dedicated lane and holds fewer passengers — it’s like a very large bus on a fixed route. They serve neighborhoods and stop every two to four blocks. But they tend to have many more riders and encourage development because people see the investment in the neighborhood.
Response was very positive. It was hard to see how the narrow West Seventh Street would have enough room for a streetcar line, automobiles and parking — although it did once, long ago. The focus on small-scale neighborhood development along the line impressed the Board. Everyone is encouraged to attend Annual Meeting to find out more.
The Federation has been in tough financial straits because the City has been slow to pay promised charges for the Schmidt Brewery redevelopment. A lot has been submitted and payment should come, but we don’t want to be in this situation again. A group will meet to get together some ideas for fundraising including grants, requests from local businesses, and individuals.
The construction crews will finish with demolition by the end of spring, and plan to have the exterior done by fall. Some townhomes will be available as early as this fall as well, with the rest by April 2014. In total, 250 rental units are available in this project from Dominium in the $800-$1100 per month. They are reserved for qualifying artists. To qualify, you have to have a certain percentage of your income come from your art and not have a salary exceeding a certain cap. There is already a waiting list, and later this spring that will be firmed up.
As work progresses on the residential part of the Brewery, the Board turned its attention to the rest of the project, which has been waiting in part for the construction to get started. A lot of time and money was sunk into stabilizing the front building and defining the project. The Federation is just beginning to be reimbursed for its efforts so far. The most important part will be finding tenants for the Rathskeller and offices, which is now starting in earnest. Toward this end, staff crafted a report to the City outlining all that has been put into the project so far and how it is likely to proceed.
In this report, the details of funding to move forward were included to remind the city of its commitment. After the front office building, the old warehouse remains the most important part of the project. Given the location of the Brewery at the heart of our neighborhood, a strong community presence is going to be part of everything that is done here and all options are open.
A plan was made to revive the Brewery Task Force as a local group to help guide and promote the development. More on this at the Annual Meeting in April.
The Board endorsed a number of supporting resolutions for the City’s biennial capital improvement requests. These were for Little Bohemia Neighborhood and Palace Playground. The Board considered but rejected supporting a request for money for Victoria Park, largely because the design committee has only started to meet for this and there are no plans or details at this time.
The Board was concerned by the slow progress of the City working through Invest St Paul, which has 14 houses in Little Bohemia in various states of work. Ways of moving this forward were discussed, as well as the urgency of making sure that this spring we have solid progress before the project becomes a liability. The Board has confirmed that this is a top priority along with the Brewery, and that continued progress in Little Bohemia is going to be a major push in 2013.
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The Fort Road Federation Board met on November 12. The next meeting is our December Holiday Party, TBA, at 974 West Seventh. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
by Erik Hare
The board heard from Lucy Thompson, a planner with the City, and Wally Johnson of Stonebridge Development, concerning the plans for a high-rise apartment at Otto, very close to Shepard Road.
Only two acres were left developable on this site after the wrangling was done with the sale of the Koch-Mobil property, and it is located next to the railroad tracks along Otto on the river side. The most recent master plan called for this to be developed as a high-rise, given that it is a rather small site adjacent to the park. On the agenda for the night were the plans by the city to sell the land to Stonebridge for development.
Many neighbors were there to hear about the tentative plans. Stonebridge figured a five-story development with roughly 160 units, the exact configuration to come later, with parking below. An allowance was made to deed an easement back to the city along the bluff to include trails and an overlook, all of which was to be determined later.
Residents were concerned that the building, as proposed, would not fit in with anything around it. It also went against many of the basic principles of riverfront development, which propose that smaller buildings would be closest to the Mississippi and views would be preserved.
The biggest problem for everyone was understanding how the site became slated for high-rise development in the first place. In the very first master plan on the site, single family housing was planned, but that became impossible when Exxon-Mobil decided that they could never allow housing on their portion of the land. Most residents felt that then compressing the housing portion into the two acres remaining was not at all what anyone agreed to in the first place.
The nature of planning in this entire parcel came under a great deal of scrutiny, given that it has been changing “on the fly” over the past several years. The original plans did not include many of the things already built in the area, including Nova Academy and Sholom East. There was a lot of concern that there was no actual “planning” process, given the way that everything has gone so far.
In the end, the Federation voted to recommend removal of housing from the parcel at Otto/Shepard Rd. while leaving single-family and townhouse housing on the north side of the tracks unchanged.
Based on this decision, if the City accepts the Federation’s advice, it would not sell the land to Stonebridge and will retain ownership until a suitable use can be found later on. This was deemed to be the only way to address the residents’ concerns that there was no valid planning process in place on the site.
Closing on the site by Dominium was scheduled for later in the week after a long process (see photo pg 2).
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by Erik Hare
The Board heard from Jim Glendening, architect for the Rathskeller remodeling that will start shortly. He has been working on getting the roof (or many roofs!) put back into shape and defining what can be done with the interior space without compromising historic integrity.
The main floor will include the offices more or less as they have been since they were built in the 1930s. There is about 2,800 square feet of potential restaurant space just to the right of the front door that has been cleared and awaiting a potential redevelopment. The final design is awaiting a tenant to decide their exact needs. On the second floor, there is more office space and a new elevator will make it handicapped accessible. Down below in the Rathskeller itself very little will change. The back area that was a gift shop for the brewery will be opened up for an “overflow” and service area that can be used as a multi-purpose room to service the Rathskeller itself. The elevator will make this whole area accessible as well for the first time.
Several drive-thru restaurants have become issues for the Federation based on the noise and traffic that they generate. Falafel King has a permit from the city to keep its drive-thru open until 1 a.m. The McDonald’s on Jefferson and West Seventh was open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday, but the city has since restricted their hours to 12 midnight on those days and 10 p.m. otherwise. Some neighbors feel this is still too late. As of now, there is no uniform policy on drive-thru hours, with each restaurant asking for what they want and seeing what the Planning Commission rules. The Federation is looking into what has happened across the city and at the other drive-thru restaurants that we have in the community.
The MCTO is looking into a new bus line that will operate primarily on Lexington Avenue all the way into Roseville. The exact route to West Seventh is still not determined, but the proposed termination point is likely to be at the Montreal Hi-Rise. This will provide additional service to this end of West Seventh, and has been very well received by the residents. There are still many details to work out.
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The Board voted to include Design Guidelines in the District 9 Area Plan, and these are now forwarded to the Planning Commission for approval. They do not have the force of law behind them, but instead are a helpful guide to any new development or improvements in the West End.
The plan includes a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” with pictures and paragraphs describing the best practices that will make the West End more pedestrian friendly, attractive, and generally better looking overall. The committee found that the most recent new developments provided many good examples already, with the only bad examples of what not to do coming from older projects in the 1970s and 80s.
For example, under “Parking,” the guidelines encourage parking spaces to be added in the rear of a building or behind trees and fences. The principle is that they should be developed alongside a “Walk area having safe and attractive features,” which can include the sidewalk along the street. By making the space for cars more distinct from the place where people walk, both beauty and safety are enhanced together.
Many other features are included in the guidelines, which are intended to have buildings fit into a consistent streetscape. The use of exterior materials that repeat down the block is encouraged, at least as an accent. Under “Scale,” the guidelines call for buildings to be similar in height as the ones next to them, but not exactly the same. The idea is to discourage overly tall buildings that look out of place on West Seventh.
Businesses generally support guidelines like this because it gives them an idea what they should be doing, rather than reacting first to whatever they have proposed. While we have had some very good developments along West Seventh in recent years, the purpose of the Guidelines is to keep it up and maintain positive growth in the years to come.
Composting is here! Eureka Recycling, a nonprofit company contracted by the City to pick up our recyclables, is now encouraging composting as a way to further reduce the total trash. Their goal is zero waste by 2020, with composting being the next step to get us to 75% recycled or reused – up from 47% in 2012. This not only cuts down on environmental problems, it saves the residents of St. Paul quite a lot of money in trash hauling.
To find out more about composting and how to get started, visit Makedirtnotwaste.org. It has many useful tips to get started, and the bins will be available at the Federation office.
After many delays, the project now has everything in place to start moving ahead. Dominium development is scheduled to take possession of the larger parts of the complex by early October, and work will start more or less immediately. The delays were caused by some problems getting the tax credits and funding in place, but they have all been sorted out at this time.
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The Fort Road Federation Board met August 13. Next meeting is September 10 at 974 West Seventh. Info: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
by Erik Hare
District 9 Area Plan
The District 9 Area Plan, which includes all of the West End, is being modified to include Design Guidelines for renovation and new development. This is a technique used by other District Councils in St. Paul to help those who want to invest in our community understand the kinds of things that we are trying to encourage upfront, before they have to go in front of the City or the Federation for any kind of approval. Most businesses and developers appreciate knowing what is expected.
The examples being worked out by the committee, headed by Becky Love-Yust and Marit Brock, are general in nature. For example, the section on exterior materials shows brick being used both as a dominant building front as well as an accent, to at least respect the buildings around it. Because this is a “guideline” it’s not something that will be enforced, but it shows what we think is important as we move ahead with the many changes that are coming as more and more is invested in our neighborhood.
Nova Classical Academy
Brian Bloomfield, the Executive Director, talked to the Board for a short time about how they are moving ahead. The building is ready for the start of school, an amazing achievement that shows how committed and skilled they are! But moving ahead, what Nova would like to do is integrate themselves better into the community and be a valuable asset in the years ahead. Some of the items discussed included fundraisers for the school held in the community, possibly with other community groups working alongside. There are also a number of opportunities in adult and community education that will come up now that we have this great new facility in the neighborhood. Nova will continue reaching out to define these and other uses for their new school in the coming months.
Falafel King has moved into West Seventh, and they are asking for a permit to reopen the drive-thru at their site. Everything is set up for it, but they need the permits. They have the signatures required from their immediate neighbors, including the one residence in the area that had to be asked. The Board did bristle at the original request to have the drive-thru open until 3 a.m., which seems like a big burden on the community around them, but passed a resolution agreeing that a drive-thru would be a good addition to the community — provided it doesn’t stay open past 10 p.m. This moves on to the Planning Commission. It was asked if the McDonald’s at Jefferson at West Seventh is allowed by their permit to stay open 24 hours on Friday on Saturday, as they recently started doing, and that is being looked into.
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The Fort Road Federation Board Meeting was held on June 11. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org. The next meeting is on July 9 at 974 West Seventh.
Cossetta’s Storm Water Management Plan
Cossetta’s is appealing to City Council the Board of Zoning Appeals denial of a requested variance that would have released the company from the requirement of installing a 60,000 gallon collection tank underground on the property. Cossetta’s argued that excavating the bedrock would add $250,000 to project costs, and proposed alternative ways to retain water so that it drains slowly enough into the storm drain system.
Asked why this was not dealt with earlier, they replied that the project had to proceed before they really knew the nature of the problem. So Cossetta’s is appealing the BZA decision to City Council, and asked the Federation to support the appeal.
Their alternative proposal includes a “green” roof with permeable soil and a cistern in the loading dock to control the rate at which water flows off of the roof and then off the property. This is entirely based on city ordinance, and the Capitol River Watershed regulations do not apply. They do provide alternatives for handling the water. Water would flow down the alley to Chestnut. This is a new ordinance, so this is the first time it has come through and we have had to deal with it. Concern was raised by the precedent of the city ordinance and how rigid it is. The lack of alternatives is the real issue to most of the board members as stated.
The Board approved unanimously a motion recommending that the City Council approve the Cossetta’s stormwater rate control variance provided that the company provides a “green roof” on the penthouse and landing area; installs the largest cistern practical in the loading dock, and deeds 226 Ryan Ave. to the City for alternative uses. The Board further recommended that the City of St. Paul consider alternative compliance sequencing and alternative stormwater management practices in the ordinance in geologically appropriate situations, with guidance and reference to standards approved by regional watershed districts.
Update: At its June 20 meeting, City Council held over the Cossetta’s appeal until July 3.
Johnson’s Victoria Park Development
Phase I and Phase II of Wally Johnson’s proposed development have been combined into one project, which would include a five story high rise on the other side of the tracks. The Board unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that the community input process be restarted to deal with the amalgamated project proposal.
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The Fort Road Federation board meeting was held on March 12 at 974 West Seventh. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
The next meeting is the Annual Meeting Thursday, April 12, at Summit Brewery, with keynote speaker Former Mayor George Latimer.
Rapid Bus Corridor
West Seventh is being considered for a major upgrade in bus service on the 54 Express bus by 2014. This plan will serve two purposes — decrease boarding delay as well as make bus stops more attractive and interesting. It will include real-time information on signs, better branding, better on-time performance, heated shelters, ticket machines at the stops for faster boarding, and the best new low-floor buses. Signal delays will also be employed on the buses to reduce down time at traffic lights.
Christine Morrison of Planning and Economic Development spoke to the Board on the plan and how it might change West Seventh. There should be no loss of parking on the street, but there could be new “bump outs” at bus stops to accommodate the improved shelters. This may be done along with a pilot program called Complete Streets that looks at everything along the street — including pedestrian signals, lighting, and other street furniture. More details will be presented at the annual meeting.
Great River Passage Plan
The Board discussed at length the plan that was presented at the previous meeting. Many things important to the community are missing in the plan as it stands now.
There is no mention of phasing, or any other plan to get this implemented in any time frame. One major component that is missing is what happens to the Shepard Road section, particularly at Randolph, which was discussed at length but does not appear in any detail in the plan. They put a lot of emphasis on things that are physically there, but Fountain Cave is something that would have to be put back in.
In the end, the Board felt that the plan as we have it now is very much incomplete, and passed a resolution that we wait until the next revision to take a stand of any kind.
Federation Board Redistricting
Due to changes in the population of the West End, the Board felt it was important to change the size of the Areas that make up Board representation ahead of the Annual Meeting. They have not been changed since the Federation was set up in the 1970s, and the population of Area III in particular is rather small.
The area represented by the Federation includes 11,600 people in total, or 3,860 for each of the three Areas. Some major changes have occurred since the boundaries were set, mostly on the Upper Landing. Proposed boundary for Area I would be St. Clair, moved north from Grace St. The proposed boundary between Area II and Area III will be at Armstrong. This gives us 4,200 in Area I, 3,800 in Area II, and 3,600 in Area III moving North to South. These changes would have to be accepted as a change in bylaws by the Annual Meeting in April.
The Annual Meeting will be on Thursday, April 12, 7 p.m., at the Summit Brewery, located at Montreal Circle in the Crosby Lake Business Park. There will be presentations on the status of the Schmidt Brewery in addition to the issues mentioned above. See you then!
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The Fort Road Federation board meeting was held on February 13 at 974 West Seventh. Next meeting: March 12. Info: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Great River Passage
A packed house greeted a presentation by Don Ganje, project manager for the Great River Passage Master Plan, which dominated the Federation meeting. This plan is expected to govern the next two generations of city efforts along the entire 26 miles of Mississippi shoreline and 3,500 acres of parks through St. Paul. The audience listened intently through the formal part of the presentation, which included a video depicting what the Mississippi could look like when the plan is fully implemented.
The website greatriverpassage.org contains much more information, including the entire Master Plan for everyone to read. Reactions are being collected by the Federation for inclusion in this public comment period, and should be directed to Betty@FortRoadFederation.org.
The theme for this plan is “More Natural, More Urban, and More Connected.” Main goals include restoring natural habitat wherever possible. Daylighting of buried streams is also important, especially Hidden Falls Creek. “More Urban” means more social gathering places along the Mississippi — namely as an environmental learning center in the Watergate Marina area, and the river opened up to fishing and small boats. River Balconies at bluff level are planned from the Science Museum to Union Depot, connecting from there to Trout Brook trail.
“More Connected” refers to neighborhood connections, including a number of trails and bridges. This also includes downgrading of Shepard Road to a four lane parkway-like road, narrowed and more heavily planted to bring down speeds, with new signage and interpretation all along the corridor.
The neighbors gathered had many questions and immediate reactions to the detailed proposals. John Yust had particular concerns for the connection at and along Randolph Avenue. “Lack of a strong visualization leaves this plan lacking and harder to implement,” he stated. Don Ganje responded by suggesting that this should be fleshed out with a more focused group to provide the details necessary. “I would encourage you to put these ideas down and give input to this process.”
Concern was also raised about the lack of interest in Fountain Cave, original home of Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant and the founding of the city. Don Ganje was sympathetic, saying, “The only study we have on this says that opening up Fountain Cave is impractical, but perhaps we should look more closely at that.” No plan of action was endorsed.
Kent Petterson, who has been the Federation’s main representative on the committee that drafted the plan, had many comments to help guide the audience towards an understanding of the process. The area around Victoria Park was highlighted in his remarks. “We have great overlook at Otto which is now slated for development, but not shown as such in the maps — why can’t the City retain at least an easement at the bluff?” Don Ganje agreed completely, saying, “We are trying to preserve this overlook with an easement right now with Planning and Economic Development (PED).” There was much more discussion of possible uses of this area and the potential soccer fields, which continued after the plan presentation.
In general, the audience was attentive and curious, more interested in learning about the city’s effort and generally supportive.
Soccer Fields at Victoria Park
Potential soccer fields at Victoria Park have been an issue for three years, and have had strong opposition in the neighborhood. The City wants to restart a new process through the Parks Commission in the form of a carefully crafted task force. Negotiations with Parks as to how it will be structured have produced some changes: a fifth slot for resident representation, four to five meetings in total, selection through an application process with the Fort Road Federation and Parks, and slots for various self-identified people and many of the other immediate interests right around it such as Nova Classical Academy, Sholom, Mississippi Market and the like. Dave Bredemus, who along with Tonya Nicholie-Johnson has headed up the Federation’s effort, was not sure if there was any alternative to participating, but remained hopeful. “If people are committed and the bodies show up we will make it work,” he said.
The group will make a design level master plan for the park, totally separate from the Great River Passage timeline. The Federation’s role is to co-chair the Task Force and relay information and support from the community as needed. The process was approved through a motion by the board on the condition that it is designed to seek consensus, not force items through on a majority vote.
Those interested in participating in the Task Force should contact the Federation at 651-298-5599 or e-mail to Betty@FortRoadFederation.org. Participation should be considered a major commitment, and those who miss meetings may not be allowed to participate in final decisions.
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| | January 2012The Fort Road Federation board meeting was held on December 12 at 974 West Seventh. January meeting date to be announced.Info: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.Saint Paul Winter Carnival Grand Day ParadeThis year, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival will open with the King Boreas Grand Day Parade down West Seventh Street, running from Smith Avenue to Rice Park. The “stands” will be at Walnut. This exciting event on January 28th at 2 p.m. requires extensive closings throughout the neighborhood all day, and will keep West Seventh closed for more than three hours. Staging will take place along Cliff Street, with the parade assembled on Smith. The High Bridge will be closed for the duration as well.Winter Carnival organizers met with the Federation Board and several neighbors to make sure that we have all the details coming together and a process for people to make sure that their access and safety concerns are addressed. There will be Police Reserves directing both car and foot traffic throughout the Cliff Street neighborhood, and temporary parking permits will be issued to identify residents and prevent issues. If you have any questions about this event please call Betty at 651-298-5599.Victoria ParkMike Hahm from St Paul Parks & Rec came to kick off the next phase of this issue, which is moving from concept to design. Little has changed through this process, with the city still interested in developing four soccer fields on the bluff side of this park. Many people were present to talk to the need for more soccer fields in the City and the importance of this being not just for kids but also for our growing communities of immigrants who play the sport.Neighbors never questioned the need for athletic facilities, but many did lament the site for the fields. This was seen by many of them as a critical Mississippi overlook location, one of the few on the bluff with breathtaking views of the whole valley. For some the question is in the details, preferring to not have artificial turf or lights but generally not opposed to the fields themselves.This is to be hashed out through a task force made up of all the people who have a stake in either the site or soccer in St. Paul. They will be charged with developing the final design for Victoria Park that meets everyone’s needs. Parks & Rec is confident that they have all the information they need to proceed to this stage and are eager to get this process moving forward.
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The Fort Road Federation board meeting was held on November 14. December meeting TBA. 974 West Seventh. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
Grand Smith Mobil
The request for a license to re-open the Mobil station at Grand and Smith is going to a legislative hearing because of a request for denial by a resident. Over the last month a review of the request has been done by many of the neighbors and there was a great deal of concern that it would continue as it has before. Neighbors were concerned by the lack of general upkeep of the store, including trash on the site and lack of policing in the general area. The new ownership is not clearly distinct from the operation of the past. Based on these concerns, the Federation passed a resolution asking that the license be denied, but that if it was permitted that there is some protections for the neighborhood and that all the back taxes are paid.
A review of traffic speed along West Seventh between Canton and Otto was done by the City at the request of the Federation. This was done to create a baseline before the upgrade of parks and a new school in the area to make sure that there would be safe places for kids to cross. The City found that speeds are around 35 MPH, less than the posted 40 MPH, so no action is needed. A lack of safe crosswalks in the area was noted, however, so crossing is still perilous. It was suggested that some upgrades might be necessary to make the area safe, but that a full study can’t be done until the improvements are in place. The Board was concerned that there are other places along West Seventh that should be upgraded to improve pedestrian crossings as well, so a general task force is likely to be created to identify intersections and perhaps submit a Capital Improvement Board proposal.
Metro Transit is planning some upgrades to bus service along West Seventh, but at this time these are substantially less than the stand-alone busway that was proposed in the past. Proposed changes include stops where riders can pay before boarding and devices to change the lights to favor buses so that they are not stuck in traffic. The Board is wary of changes, given the controversy in the past over much larger improvements, but supportive of what has been proposed here. It was also noted that regular local service does not exist west of Randolph, with the 54 bus being a limited stop service only — in the eyes of the Board, a request to improve access to buses should be part of any proposal.
Since the Rathskeller itself is not registered as a historic building in its own right, it is not eligible for Legacy Funds. The Board considered some other options for fundraising so that we can put a lot more money and attention into this important structure, especially after the great reception given to it at the October opening. A capital campaign with some new ideas is being considered.
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Board meeting was held Oct 10. Next meeting Nov 14, 7pm, 974 West Seventh. 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.Victoria ParkThe neighborhood continues to react to the latest proposal for apartments on the site. The biggest concerns are with parking and how the latest plan relates to the plans for parks in the area. Parking concerns include the possible need to widen Otto St. to accommodate on-street parking, should that become necessary. However, the neighbors in the area do recognize that having a passive park without a neighborhood around it could become a magnet for trouble, so they are not completely opposed to the idea. The developer, Wally Johnson, has been very open and willing to discuss his plans even as they are in the earliest stages, which has pleased residents greatly. At this time, the Federation has not taken a position on this development.Schmidt BreweryThe big event is the party planned for Dominium’s formal takeover of their share of the site on October 26, which we all feel has been a long time coming. Listing on the National Register of Historic Places is now complete. A general cleanup of the entire site is proceeding, as metal and other debris are being removed. Plans for the Rathskeller will now begin in earnest with the roof done and the rest of the site secured.Grand Smith Gas StationA proposal was floated for the gas station at Grand and Smith, which has not operated since it was taken in foreclosure last June. The new owner is Bill Egan, who would like to develop the site as intensively as possible. In the meantime, however, the first phase includes getting the gas pumps open and taking out the service bays to expand the convenience store section. That could happen as early as October 28 if the application for a permit is not challenged.The longer-term plans are much more in flux. Proposals for a two-story building on the site of the current service bays and a car wash in the back each seemed to be a bit much for the immediate residents. Concerns were voiced on whether the lot was big enough to accommodate that much parking and how a car wash would necessarily encroach on a shared alley. There was also concern about the possibility of selling 3.2 beer at the store, but that proposal has been withdrawn.Immediate residents in Little Bohemia generally were in favor of the first phase of the station, reopening with a larger convenience store, and expressed that it was better for everyone than an empty building. The longer-range plans can be discussed later. Neighbors in Uppertown and Irvine Park have not met to consider their opinions on the plans.
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Federation board meeting was held Sept 12. Next meeting Oct 10, 7pm, 974 West Seventh. Victoria ParkThis part of the West End has been getting a lot of attention lately, and the Federation meeting was full of proposals and updates from all corners. First up was Wally Johnson, who is interested in building approximately 150 rental units in three-story buildings along Otto. He is the developer of the Gateway project down West Seventh and has a lot of experience in the area. His main intention was to introduce himself to the board, explain what he does, and look for obvious red flags to his ideas. The board took no action but asked a number of questions before directing Johnson to follow-up with a general community meeting, which will be arranged shortly.A brief update from Nova Academy, just to the west of proposed rental site, was full of many details that are all moving forward. Their project has to move like clockwork in order to be open for next year, and they are still on schedule.Lastly, there was an update on the soccer fields proposed for the remainder of the site. There are no significant new details available at this time but the arrangements that are under consideration are now being put into writing. This was hailed as a good achievement on its own. A spokesman from the Parks Department will be invited to the next meeting to clarify this proposal and find out where it really stands.Schmidt BreweryA lot is happening in the brewery. The roof has been finished on the old office building and plans are being drawn up to begin shopping for potential restauranteurs to bring into the project. There are major issues with parking and access for Dominium Development as they work toward a closing on their share of the project, and the Scope of Work has been submitted for approval from historic management agencies. Staff from Landmark Center have generously provided expertise as to how to manage a historic site and schedule events and so on. The buildings have been cleaned out of old equipment such as filing cabinets and other debris.
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By Erik Hare
The Fort Road Federation board meeting was held Aug 8. Next meeting Sept 12, 7pm, 974 West Seventh. 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.back to top
Nova Classical Academy
Miranda Morton, Lower School director, told the board the new school, at Victoria Park (West Seventh and Otto), is moving ahead with their aggressive schedule to open for the 2012-13 school year. The Planning Commission and City Council have approved their plans and final design is being developed. The biggest concern has come from Sholom Homes, which wanted to preserve their views of the Mississippi River. That apparently has been worked out by being careful about the building height in the final stages of design.
Victoria Park Fill
Several Adrian Street neighbors of Victoria Park were on hand to find a solution to their ongoing problems with the process of filling in the old tank farm with clean dirt, taken from the Central Corridor project. Complaints were filed about unlivable amounts of dust and even some damage from rocks as the trucks went by. Part of the issue includes using Thurston Street, which was supposed to be closed, as a shortcut. The Federation will continue working with these neighbors to assure that standards are met for watering down the dust and correct routing of traffic.
The roof on the office/Rathskeller was in far worse shape than originally hoped, but progress is being made on repairing it quickly. There was a lot of discussion on plans for the future from a financial perspective, given that this is the biggest project the Federation has taken on in a long time — and the income necessary to keep the organization moving forward. The board is continuing to stay actively involved in the process of getting the development started and getting anchor tenants for the larger buildings.
The car wash at West Seventh near Victoria is scheduled to re-open with its special conditional use permit on file. The new owner came to talk to the board and show that the concerns of neighbors have been met, most of which were held over from the previous operation and long period of the building being empty and unsupervised. Neighbors were eager to see an active business moving into the location and generally supported the proposed operation.
Three houses have been torn down and the rest are moving along. The immediate goals for the summer are being met and the larger project is moving forward after delays earlier this summer in getting contracts let out.
July 2011by Erik HareThe Fort Road Federation board meeting was held on June 13, 7pm, at 974 West Seventh. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The July meeting date has not been determined. RezoningLucy Thompson and Jessica Rosenfeld from the City have been working on a request from Councilmember Thune’s office to look at the zoning along West Seventh from Smith to St. Clair, as well as Victoria Park. The intent is to clean up decades of patchwork zoning and apply some of the new zones that are not as restrictive by use but instead specify height, form, and parking requirements. These new zones, called “TN” for “Traditional Neighborhood,” allow for mixed uses such as apartments over commercial structures like those that were built before zoning even existed. Using these categories takes many properties that were technically out of compliance and ratifies their uses.One study, presented by Rosenfeld, dealt with the residential properties throughout the community. She recommended that the designation TN2 be used, which allows for duplexes and single family homes with the density that already appears in the area. A full map of all the changes is available from the City Planning and Economic Development office (http: //bit.ly/D9zoning) or at the Federation.Lucy Thompson looked at some proposed changes to the commercial district, primarily in the triangle formed by West Seventh, Smith and Grand. She also recommended TN2 over most of this area for the same reasons. This is fully compliant with the uses that are there except in a few cases, which will continue to be grandfathered in.Victoria Park requires rezoning because of changes that have taken place since the City lost the court battle and cannot allow residential uses on most of the old tank farm. The main issue here is recognizing the new streets and incorporating them along with Nova Academy into the Master Plan.There will be a public hearing on all of these changes on July 22 at 6 p.m. at the Council Chamber. All affected property owners will be notified by mail in advance. The Board was generally supportive of the proposed changes and had no additions, welcoming how they fit with the existing uses and the master plan.Urgent Care Animal ClinicThe after-hours animal clinic, now on University Avenue, is planning a new building at 1546 West Seventh, just west of the old Hostess store and the new Mississippi Market. They need a variance because the existing zoning requires a higher density on the site than they could build. They need a lot of parking because people bring in animals that need immediate attention. Hours of operation are weekends and 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays, which is when regular vets are closed. The clinic is owned and operated by a consortium of veterinarians that includes Dr. Mark Goodell of the Fort Road Animal Clinic, nearby on West Seventh.The Board passed a resolution supporting their variance and encouraging them to go ahead. It was noted that this will be an important new amenity for the neighborhood.Smith Avenue Traffic CalmingFor several months neighbors have been working to reduce traffic speeds on Smith just after the High Bridge. The speed limit of 40 on the bridge dropping down to 30 causes a number of problems, including a large number of accidents. Large decorative planters were hit by cars going out of control. A meeting was held with the City where some new lane narrowing and other efforts to make it visually much less appealing to drive fast and also make it much less dangerous to make a left turn at the end of the bridge were discussed.TidbitsNova Classical Academy is moving ahead and should meet their aggressive schedule to start work this fall. Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association is waiting for the City to award the contracts for renovation and demolition that have already been approved, which will mark a critical phase of that new association’s efforts. The Board also considered ways to make their treasurer’s report easier to read and to get a better handle on what needs to be done to keep the Federation strong and stable for years to come, even through difficult times like these.
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| |June 2011
by Erik HareThe Fort Road Federation board meeting was held on May 9, 7pm, at 974 West Seventh. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org; e-mail: email@example.com. The next meeting is on June 13 at 7p.m.The Schmidt Brewery was closed on by the Federation on April 29, so we own it now! The next step is to finish the Historic District designation and start some key predevelopment construction. This includes a new roof for the Rathskeller and a lot of utility work to separate the properties along the new boundaries. In coming months the details of how this development will proceed will be fleshed out, but the initial plan remains in effect.The final Great River Park plan is still being drawn up, and a number of issues were raised by the Board related to the Federation’s status as the planning arm of the city. The main concern was the designation of a Busway on West Seventh, which is still listed by the Met Council as an active plan — this will be left off the Great River Park plan. The most significant concerns involved connections to the Mississippi from the bluff from a number of locations. Stairs leading down from the High Bridge, a bridge over the railroad from Walnut St., and other connections were discussed at length. Though there is not likely to be money to build any of these for some time, it is important to be on record that they will be built so that in future years the plans will be on file. Nova Academy is moving ahead with their plans for a completely new building in Victoria Park. The plans are still being finalized even as Piper Jaffrey is gearing up to sell bonds to make it happen. They still plan to begin construction by this fall to make a July 2012 opening, giving them the summer to move into it.Nova currently occupies two sites, one for their K-8 at the old St Francis building and the other in Highland. By combining operations into one building they plan to be able to offer more programs and increase enrollment by 26. The Federation Board pushed them to include more preference for West Seventh residents, which is being considered.This development will take place on the land that is not required by court order to be a park.
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| |May 2011
by Ken McCormickAnnual meeting held April 18. Next meeting May 9, 7pm at 974 West 7th. Info: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2011 Board members: Back row: Leonard Schwartz, Dave Bredemus, Erik Hare, Will Wilson, Dave Wickiser. Front row: Marit Brock, Gail Graham, Pat McGuiness, Tonya Nicholie, David Wietedki. Not pictured: Walt Wietzke. 2011 Board members: Back row: Leonard Schwartz, Dave Bredemus, Erik Hare, Will Wilson, Dave Wickiser. Front row: Marit Brock, Gail Graham, Pat McGuiness, Tonya Nicholie, David Wietedki. Not pictured: Walt Wietzke.Fort Road Federation Annual MeetingCurrent president Dave Bredemus opened the 2011 annual meeting.Gary Brueggemann, an area teacher and local historian, gave the feature presentation, a narrative on the West Seventh neighborhood from the perspective of the many breweries that were a significant part of the early growth in the area. Indeed Gary said the area could just as well be called “Brewtown” given the six or seven breweries that were operating here in the last half of the 1800s. This was evidently a result not only of the availability of excellent water but of the presence a large influx of Germans and especially Bavarians. Those immigrants lead to a number of the schools and churches that were key parts of the early neighborhood. (Gary’s full presentation is available on the Federation web site.) There were brief words from City Council Member Dave Thune and County Commissioner Manuel Ortega on the Federation’s 38 years of success.The agenda then included organization reports on various activities of interest to our neighborhood.
Election of Officers
- Kent Petterson noted the annual West Seventh Neighbors Garden Tour is scheduled June 18.
- Nadja Berneche noted Community Gardens are now opened and all available plots are spoken for. The West End community garden, at Jefferson and Victoria adjacent to Tavern On The Avenue, is on the June Garden Tour. Everyone is encouraged to visit.
- Marit Brock made a brief presentation about the Smith/West Seventh Neighborhood Task Force redevelopment efforts. They will be working on five homes this coming year.
- Tonya Nicholie and Patrick McGuiness briefly discussed a City proposal to put in a number of lighted soccer fields as a key feature of a revitalized park in a large portion of Victoria Park. There are many reasons why the neighborhood doesn’t like this proposal, one is that Nova Academy is now interested in possibly relocating their campuses there if they can have access to combined recreation and park space. This issue was featured in a formal resolution later in the meeting.
- Leonard Schwartz reported on other activity in Victoria Park.
- Outgoing Federation President Dave Bredemus briefly outlined recent efforts underway to redevelop the Schmidt Brewery as well as Victoria Park and recently successful efforts to open the new combined firehouse and the United Family Health Clinic. He also mentioned efforts now underway to fund a redesigned and revitalized Palace Recreation Center.
- Resolutions were offered, including one that confirmed those in attendance were not in favor of soccer fields in the Victoria Park location.
:The following individuals were elected to lead the Federation for the next year:President: Tonya NicholieVice-President: Patrick McGuiness2nd Vice-President: Will WilsonSecretary: Eric HareTreasurer: David WickiserArea Coordinators elected were:Area I: Marit Brock and Walt WietzkeArea II: Gayle Graham and David WietedkiArea III: Leonard Schwartz. The other Area III seat is vacant.
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by JERRY ROTHSTEINMonthly meeting held February 14. Next meeting March 14, 7pm, 974 West Seventh. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org; e-mail: email@example.com.Schmidt Brewery Historic DistrictAmy Spong, Planning and Preservation Specialist with the City’s Planning and Economic Development department, presented a detailed overview of the process of creating the “Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company Historic District.” The local historic district allows for more protection of the historic site than would a national designation. As a local historic district, alterations to buildings and structures on the site are under the Heritage Preservation Commission’s jurisdiction. District designation for the brewery property is essential for the proposed redevelopment to proceed, as it opens the ways for both federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits.The work involved in preparing the application includes identification and evaluation of the site, including a cultural resources survey and determination of which buildings and features of a proposed site actually contribute to its historical value. With the brewery site, for example, people may not realize that the Stahlmann stables on Webster and Toronto, and much of the underground cellars and tunnel system are “contributing,” and many of the more recent buildings on the site are “noncontributing.” Amy mentioned that Paul Clifford Larson was contracted to do the designation application in its entirety, including research and writing, boundaries, contributing-noncontributing properties, etc.The main factors in deciding a site’s status are significance and integrity. The brewery’s period of significance in between 1958 and 1955, and there is ample integrity in the historically significant structures and features.With all the documentation in place, City Council can approve the local designation, and can also certify the site as meeting criteria for the National Register without actually moving to have it listed at this time.Dominium DevelopmentsOwen Metz has been working on Dominium’s plans to develop 220 units of affordable rentals in the Bottling House and The Castle buildings, with some artist live/work spaces included in the plans. They also want to build 16 townhomes along Erie St., also as affordable family rentals. With the state and federal historic tax credits and available affordable housing credits, Dominium believes the project is financially feasible.When questioned on what amenities the project would include, Madison mentioned possible common artist studio spaces and main floor community meeting rooms. But it soon became clear that these features would be available only to residents, not to the West End community at large. Even the historic castle towers are not to be used as a public resource — even though they are the symbolic heart of the brewery’s historic value — because costs would be too great. There was some dissatisfaction in the room at these revelations, and future discussions should be interesting.The Federation has an agreement with Xcel Energy’s Design Assistance Program to design the heating/cooling system for the Rathskeller at no charge. With Dominium, the Federation has received a $50,000 pollution investigation grant from the Metropolitan Council (via the City) to complete pollution remediation planning for the site, and then apply for funding in May to do the work.Superintendent Silva changed her original plan and agreed that the Four Seasons program can continue — in another location and not as a year-round offering. A strong neighborhood effort by the West Seventh/Smith Avenue Neighborhood Task Force is advocating that Four Seasons move to the Jefferson School building being vacated by Open World Learning Community. The Task Force points out that an occupied, functioning building at that site is essential for the neighborhood’s well-being. Another supportive factor comes from the partnership between Four Seasons and the West Seventh Community Center’s federally funded after school and summer programs, in which more than half of the students are from Four Seasons. It was agreed to form a delegation of Federation, Task Force and Community Center representatives to seek a meeting with the Superintendent to put these ideas forward. Dave Bredemus, Walt Wietzke and Betty Moran of the Federation, Diane Gerst of the Community Center and Marit Brock of the Task Force agreed to form the group.The Task Force is now two years old! Marit reported that the Exterior Grant Program is nearly completed, having leveraged $80,000 in grants into $200,000 in work. Five rehab contracts have been let for $720,000 in work. Planning is also starting for moving the Kraus Anderson House on Smith to the corner of Douglas and Forbes. The Task Force continues to monitor new foreclosures in the neighborhood. West Seventh/St. Clair Task Force. See “New Teamwork” article by Mary Hansen.Set for February 22 at Sholom Homes, with presentations from developers, Nova Classical Academy and the Federation on the park development process.Capital Improvement ApplicationsApproved for funding for final stages of planning and first stages of work on Palace Rec; and for planning on Victoria Park. Dave Wickiser commented, “As a neighborhood, we haven’t yet engaged in discussing what we do want on the site. We’ve been kept busy reacting to others’ plans.”
Monthly meeting held January 10. Next meeting February 14, 7pm, 974 West Seventh.
| |December 2010
No monthly meeting held in December. Next meeting January 10, 7pm, 974 West Seventh.
November 2010Last meeting: Nov 8. Next meeting Dec 13, 7pm, 974 West 7th.Schmidt BreweryAn agreement has been signed by Dominium Development, the Fort Road Federation and Bruce Hendry to redevelop the Schmidt Brewery property. The agreement in principle is to work toward a closing in spring of 2011. The most important work to be completed is the historic designation of several buildings on the site. This will make the property eligible for federal and state tax credits that are very important to making the development financially possible. At this stage, there are few details available on how the site will be used. Dominium has plans in hand to turn the Bottling House into a series of artists’ living and work space. They also will be developing the “Castle,” but that use is not clear. Bruce Hendry will retain ownership of the large warehouse between Duke and Erie Streets, located by the Canadian Pacific railroad. The rest of the land will go to the Fort Road Federation working with the City of Saint Paul. What is certain is that this large project will happen in stages, with the large parcel of cleared land at the southwest of the property (where the large tank used to be on West Seventh) saved for the very end. Look for a more thorough update in the January edition of the Community Reporter.Smith NeighborhoodThe neighborhood has survived roadwork and completed its process of identifying which houses are worth renovating. Those houses will likely be contracted out by the end of the year. Things are much quieter and looking much better at this end. The new park’s art project/fitness station has been christened “Pleasant Park” for its proximity to the old Pleasant Ave (now I-35E). It has been an exciting time for the whole neighborhood. The Federation would like to congratulate this neighborhood for its hard work and very visible improvements as we look ahead to another season of changes through this winter and into next year!
| || || || | OCTOBER 2010Last meeting: Oct. 11. Next meeting Nov 8, 7pm, 974 West 7th.Victoria ParkLittle change has come from the Parks Department in this project, which is still centered around the development of four soccer fields on the site. However, the Federation’s role is stepping up and working to arrange a meeting with all the affected neighbors to understand exactly how the community feels about this potential asset and how it balances against the increases in traffic and noise in the area.Diane Gerth, past Federation President, talked at length with the Board to clarify their role with the Capital Improvement Budget Process, a citizen involvement system for allocating increasingly scarce city money for big projects. We have to have a proposal in by January to allocate money for staff time so that Victoria Park planning can be done properly.Solar EnergyRalph Jacobson came to talk as part of his promotion of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society. They hope to have 1,000 houses and businesses installing solar water heaters on their roofs across the city — enough that the purchase of these systems can be done in bulk, saving everyone up to 80% of the purchase cost after all the tax credits are included. It’s a unique opportunity to save money and energy without having to put in a lot of money up front. More information can be found at the Federation office or at mnrenewables.org.Schmidt BreweryA general agreement is continuing to come together to make the redevelopment of this landmark property possible. The partners include Dominium Development, Bruce Hendry, and the Federation.Dominium has a long track record developing properties like this both in the city and the suburbs, and their involvement centers on the tax credits that come from developing historic properties. Dominium would take the old Bottle House and the “castle” at the center, probably for residential development. Hendry, the current owner, would retain some of the property for his development. The Federation, acting mainly with city money, would take the Rathskeller and large warehouse on Seventh.Coordination of all these groups is critical, so the initial agreement will take some time to move forward. There is a general understanding in principle, but many details have to be worked out — especially parking. The current plan is to open up Webster Street through the site and to make Oneida a “private drive” with a lot of parking that would also more-or-less be open through the site.
| || || || |SEPTEMBER 2010Schmidt BreweryAfter many years of hard work and dedication, it looks as though a plan for action on the Schmidt Brewery is moving forward! Ed Johnson presented the framework of agreement between the parties who have agreed to split up the site. Dominium Development is planning to redevelop the Bottling House and “Castle”; the Federation would take the Rathskeller and Keg House; the Welsh Companies plan to redevelop the large (nonhistoric) warehouse; and current owner Bruce Hendry would keep what’s left in the proposed agreement being finalized.There is still a year left to hammer out details, have the site listed on the Register of Historic Places and apply for the very important tax credits for historical renovation at the state and federal level that are making this possible. There is a strong commitment and the finances are finally working out in everyone’s best interests.Victoria ParkCity plans for four soccer fields along the bluff are continuing forward, but there are many details that need to be worked out ahead of a deadline for funding from the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. Tonya Nicholie presented the latest drawings and details of the plan, which has not changed significantly since it was first proposed. Neighbors will have a chance to weigh in at a community meeting that the Board agreed to listen to before taking a stand on this issue.Great River Interpretive Signs Dan Varney from St. Paul Parks & Rec presented a plan for using a series of federal and state grants for interpretive signs and kiosks along Shepard Road. These will be part of its designation as the “Great River Road,” a scenic route that stretches the length of the Mississippi.St. Paul is determined to make this route part of what they hope to be a “Grand Round” of parks and trails encircling the city, ultimately taking dozens of parks and parkways in the city and making them into a city in a park.A great deal of care is being taken to make sure these new signs closely reflect the neighborhoods, and a small committee was formed to gather as information to make the new signs as informative as possible.