Rezoning sought for James-Lex apartments

The Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s Housing and Land Use Committee will review plans for an apartment building at the southeast corner of Lexington Parkway and James Avenue during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24. The plans call for rezoning 1074-1096 James Ave. from single-family residential to multifamily residential. Six houses would be removed. 

The developers plan to construct a medium-density apartment building on the property in anticipation of pending changes to the city’s residential multifamily (RM) zoning districts. The St. Paul Planning Commission is considering zoning code changes to allow more density in RM districts.

The preliminary plans for the development show three to four stories of apartments. The building would have 60 studio to two-bedroom units. Twenty surface and 60 underground parking spaces are being proposed.

A second phase of the project shows another apartment building at the northeast corner of Randolph Avenue and Lexington. It would require the removal of three homes and a mixed-use building.


The project will be heard by the Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18. The development team is Chet Funk, Nathan James and Erich Leidel.

Hearing set on rules to protect tenants

The passage of St. Paul’s controversial SAFE Housing Tenant Protections Ordinance has been delayed. The City Council on June 3 postponed a public hearing and vote on the ordinance, which would mandate several measures meant to protect tenants from unfair rental practices.

Instead of June 10, the online public hearing is now set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 24. The council is expected to cast its final vote on the ordinance at 3:30 p.m. that day unless there are substantive amendments.


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Speakers at the public hearing will be chosen by lottery. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the council has been only allowing written testimony in the past few months. Written testimony will still be reviewed by the council.

Council president Amy Brendmoen has asked her fellow council members to bring in their amendments by June 10 and to be prepared to discuss them on June 17.

“I’ve heard from people on all sides of the issue,” Brendmoen said. That includes tenant and landlord advocates and some council members who did not have their amendments finalized by June 3.

The vote to reschedule the hearing was 4-2, with Brendmoen joined in support by Rebecca Noecker, Jane Prince and Chris Tolbert. Mitra Jalali and Nelsie Yang voted against the delay. Jalali said supporters of the ordinance are eager to move forward.

However, other council members said they needed more time to work on their amendments. “My focus here is to be consistent, to be fair and to be transparent,” Brendmoen said.

The SAFE (Stable, Accessible, Fair and Equitable) Housing ordinance has the support of many tenant-advocate, faith-based and social justice groups, but has drawn fire from landlords. The ordinance includes regulations on rental deposits, the sale of rental property and tenant notification, tenant screening and just causes for evictions.

If adopted, the ordinance would take effect on January 1, 2021.

A rendering of the apartments proposed at James and Lexington.

Three new homes planned in Irvine Park

Bayport-based Sharkey Design-Build is seeking the city of St. Paul’s approval to build three single-family homes on vacant property at 300, 302 and 304 Ryan Ave. in the Irvine Park neighborhood. The developer filed lot split and boundary adjustment plans with the city in May. Those requests will go to the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development for its review.

A house on the property was torn down more than a year ago after having been moved there in the 1960s. It had stood in the old Upper Levee neighborhood since 1900. According to St. Paul “house detective” Jim Sazevich, the house was moved when the Upper Levee neighborhood below the High Bridge was cleared.

Lot split and boundary adjustment decisions are made by the city’s planning administrator. However, because the Irvine Park neighborhood is in a historic preservation district, the plans will also be reviewed by the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).

The HPC approved the demolition of the house at 302 Ryan in 2018 when it was owned by Merriam Park resident Fred Schmidt.

News Briefs were compiled by Jane McClure.


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