Facing an uphill battle with the Saint Paul City Council and Planning Commission set to vote next week, community groups faced off against developers over the future of the Midway Shopping Center on December 16. The Union Park District Council met and voted unanimously to oppose the plan, maintaining the city should stand by its own already-adopted development strategies, which they feel provide a clear strategy for the future of University Avenue.
The developers’ plan, originally proposed in October 2007, would tear down the existing Big Top Liquor and adjacent store-fronts, and replace them with a two story drive-through Walgreens and an expanded Big Top Liquor, which would include a partial second story mezzanine. The Saint Paul City Council and Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan in 2007 despite strong opposition from local community councils and University United.
University United stated on its website that they had appealed the original plan because the proposed buildings were not sited adjacent to the road grid called for in the Central Corridor Development Strategy, and were not pedestrian friendly.
Earlier this year, the conditional use permit expired and developers reapplied, submitting the same site plan approved in 2007.
Eric Molho, chair of the Union Park District Council Land Use Committee, said the Council, “opposed the extension of the conditional use permit last week because the conditional use permit violates several planning documents the city of Saint Paul has adopted regarding development along University Avenue.”
Referring to both the Saint Paul Central Corridor Development Strategy and the Snelling Station Area Plan, Mr. Molho pointed out: “The city continues to spend a great deal of money engaging citizens in robust, forward-thinking planning documents like these and then fails to enforce them. We believe new development along University Avenue should conform to the standards the city has already established for itself.”
“The redevelopment of Midway Center is a lengthy, contentious issue involving numerous public and private interests,” Molho said. “If the city staff continues to support projects that violate their own planning documents, it is very difficult for residents to change their minds. I hope the Planning Council will recognize how much time and energy – by city staff and residents – has already gone into the plans we have developed. We have a clear strategy for the future of University Avenue and we need to follow that strategy.”
Residents can offer their comments on the issue at an upcoming public hearing December 29th. Go here for more information.