Despite opposition from community organizations, the Saint Paul Zoning Committee unanimously approved a vital permit on December 30 for the redevelopment of the Big Top Liquor in the Midway Shopping Center.
Following a December 16 meeting, the Union Park District Council sent the City a letter in which they stated, “this conditional use, and the proposed development of the Walgreens/Big Top Midway Center go against many of the principles set forth in the Saint Paul Central Corridor Development Strategy and the Snelling Station Area Plan, both of which have been adopted as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and should therefore guide development planning to enhance and maximize the success of the Central Corridor.”
City staff who reviewed the project disagreed and recommended approval of the permit, while acknowledging the validity of the Council’s concerns. When asked by Commissioner Stephen Gordon to respond to the Council’s letter, Sarah Zohn with the Saint Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development said, “they are legitimate concerns – the development is not consistent with the Central Corridor Development Strategy. The 2007 application came in prior to the adoption of the Central Corridor Development Strategy and it was exempted.”
Paula Maccabee, a lawyer serving as a consultant to the owners of the Midway Shopping Center, pointed out the site plan itself is not before the Planning Commission for review, only the conditional use permit to allow a drive-through for the Walgreens. The site plan itself had been extended to November 2010 by administrative action of the City. When asked her comment on the Union Park District Council’s opposition to the development, Maccabee said. “I believe that the Walgreens/Big Top projects will enhance the appearance of the retail area from both University and Snelling and provide modern and convenient shopping for customers. I also believe that, in this difficult economy, building two new stores in the heart of St. Paul will send an important positive message about the Midway area.”
The plan now goes before the Saint Paul Planning Commission on January 8.