By Jane McClure
Reworked plans for a five-story apartment building near Selby Avenue and Dale Street are moving ahead with a 5-2 vote of approval on April 20 by the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). The design was altered after the HPC rejected a request by TJL Development to demolish a former service garage at 156 N. Dale St. to make way for part of the new project.
The HPC’s approval was required because the property is in the Historic Hill District. No start date for the project has been announced. Rezoning is still required to bring the service garage site and two vacant lots at 594 Selby Ave. under the same zoning classification. Front setback, parking, access point and lot coverage variances are also being considered.
The Summit-University Planning Council’s Neighborhood Development Committee voted on April 21 to ask TJL Development to include affordable housing in its plans. Developer Jim LaValle said he has looked at affordable units, but the development team was not informed of the online meeting.
The HPC stated in March that the former service garage needed to be saved. Some commissioners were also critical of the apartment building’s design, with one comparing it to Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green housing project.
The proposed building would have 81 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units on the upper four floors, with a total of 110 parking spaces below grade and on the first floor. The building would be stepped back to minimize its massing along Selby and would include an outdoor deck to the west.
HPC staff recommended approval of the proposed building, even though it would be taller than nearby structures. Allison Suhan Eggers of the HPC staff recommended removal of the proposed balconies on the east end of the building.
The building’s footprint has changed and a darker shade of brick is now being proposed for the exterior, according to architect David Holland of UrbanWorks Architecture. Plans also call for park-style green space in front of the apartment building as well as in the front of the former service garage.
Commissioner Barbara Bezat, who joined Robert Lubke in voting against the new design, objected to what she saw as a potentially dangerous entrance for vehicles along Selby. She asked why the former Dale Street garage could not be repurposed as a vehicle entrance for residents of the apartments.
Other commissioners continued to have concerns about the building’s size in relation to others along Selby. “Massing is the crucial element in all of this,” said commissioner Paul Nelson. “We’re seeing a march of big buildings west of this down Selby.”
The HPC’s discussion on April 20 focused more on the former service garage, which was built in 1915. In 1926 its front wall was set back 27 feet from Dale, and several of its former windows have since been bricked over or boarded up.
TJL Development initially wanted to renovate the garage, but set those plans aside in March due to building’s deteriorated condition. It planned to replace the garage with a five-story mixed-use building that would have had 4,900 square feet of retail space on the first floor and apartments above. However, an HPC staff report stated that demolishing the garage would have negative impacts on the Historic Hill District.
LaValle now plans to save and renovate the former garage building on its own, including opening up the former windows.