Sisters of Saint Joseph may open Provincial House to homeless

A proposal to turn the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet’s Provincial House into a shelter for families who are homeless will be addressed at a virtual town hall meeting from 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 5. The meeting will be hosted by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Ramsey County and Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul.

Interfaith Action would lease the space at 1880 Randolph Ave. to serve approximately 20 families with children, almost all of whom are under age 12. The Saint Paul Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee will hold a hearing on the issue on December 31. The full Planning Commission meets on January 8.

COVID-19 and the economic downturn brought about by the pandemic have exacerbated the housing crisis locally. Ramsey County officials have been working to identify possible new shelters. The Provincial House, which has served as offices and a residence for the Sisters of Saint Joseph for nearly 100 years, has not been fully occupied for the past 10 years.

Interfaith Action, with financial support from Ramsey County, would operate the shelter as part of Project Home, its 23-year-old program that has provided temporary shelter and support for families experiencing homelessness at synagogues and churches across the area. Interfaith Action’s rapid exit support team would staff the Provincial House facility while helping families find permanent affordable housing as well as employment and educational opportunities.

All shelters in Saint Paul are required to have conditional use permits, which limit the number of residents and the hours of operation. The permit application for Provincial House states that the shelter would house up to 30 families in rooms on the second, third and fourth floors. A main floor dining room and laundry facilities would also be used.

To join the town hall meeting on January 5, visit zoom.us/j/96222033055#success or call 651-372-8299.

Council lays over decision on wine shops near liquor stores

The Saint Paul City Council was poised to vote on a proposal to change the distance requirement between wine-only shops and off-sale liquor stores on December 16, but laid the matter over until January 27.

The ordinance change would allow wine shops to operate within a quarter mile of off-sale liquor stores, instead of the current half mile. The change is being led by council member Jane Prince in response to a request from the owner of the Yoerg Brewing Company to open the Vin de Pays wine shop next to his brewery and restaurant. The wine shop would not meet the city’s current distance requirements from other liquor stores.

Prince said she has heard from two other business owners interested in opening wine shops. Because liquor licenses also are based on population, she estimates that the city could accommodate only about half a dozen more shops.

The measure has support of the city’s Business Review Council and several district councils and business associations. It is opposed by off-sale liquor store owners and the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association.

Mayor Melvin Carter has said he wants the matter to see further review from the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections. Otherwise, he said he may veto the measure. City staff have said they may not have time to work on the ordinance until March.

Prince said she and her staff have spent months meeting with neighborhood groups and that the ordinance should be ready to be voted on now.

Pedro Park
A 2018 rendering of plans for Pedro Park next to the former Public Safety An- nex at 10th and Robert streets in downtown Saint Paul.

Long battle over downtown’s Pedro Park takes another turn

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on December 14 ruled against the Friends of Pedro Park, affirming a lower court decision to dismiss the group’s lawsuit against the city over plans for developing the site in downtown Saint Paul.

Friends leader Kati Berg said park supporters should now encourage city officials to develop the larger park they have envisioned. The group has long fought for a park to take up the entire block bounded by 10th, Robert, Ninth and Minnesota streets. That proposed park has appeared in city plans since 1997. Instead, a passive park was created there next to the city’s Public Safety Annex at 100 E. 10th St.

Instead of razing the annex and creating a larger park, the City Council voted in 2018 to sell the building to Minneapolis-based Ackerberg Group, which planned to convert it into retail and office space. However, Ackerberg has dropped that proposal, leaving open the possibility that the vacant building could be torn down and incorporated into a larger park. Or the city could market the property for development again.

The park is named for the Pedro family, who closed its longtime luggage center at 10th and Robert streets in 2008. The family donated the .45-acre site for a city park the following year with the condition that it carry the Pedro family name.

Earlier this fall the City Council reallocated $800,000 in Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) funds earmarked for improving the park to help make up a $22 million deficit in the 2020 city budget. City staff told the CIB Committee in November that Pedro Park’s path forward is uncertain as park funding was tied to the redevelopment of the annex building. Ackerberg was to buy the building for $1.4 million and planned to work with the city to develop the adjacent vacant land as a park. Ackerberg was also to provide $40,000 annually for 20 years to maintain Pedro Park.

Berg said she does not have any regrets for the years she and others spent challenging the city. She said now that Ackerberg has dropped its plans to purchase the building, the park issue can go back to the City Council.

New, undisclosed plans in works for Fire Station 10 on Randolph

The long-awaited redevelopment of former Fire Station 10 at 754 Randolph Ave. is moving ahead, but not with the plans that were originally proposed.

Building owner Travis Temke had previously announced plans to convert the building into a restaurant, microbrewery and event center. This fall, the city issued a building permit to Terra Construction for the fire station’s renovation. Temke recently said that he now plans to fix up the building, bring it up to city codes, and prepare it for a new and as yet undetermined use.

The Saint Paul City Council on December 16 approved a special assessment for a fire protection sprinkler system for the two-story building, which was constructed in 1885. The system has an estimated cost of $109,872. Temke will be responsible for installing the sprinkler system and presenting city officials with invoices for payment of the work. If Temke abandons the project, he will have to reimburse the city for assessment-related costs.

The building was once the oldest active firehouse in the city. It served five different fire companies over the years and at one point was the infirmary for ill or injured fire horses. It was expanded in 1911 and was used as a fire house until 2010 when its last fire company moved to the new Fire Station 1 on Randolph Avenue and West Seventh Street. It was used for storage before its sale in 2018.

News Briefs were compiled by Jane McClure and Dale Mischke.

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.