A controversial right-of-way improvement project is moving forward with the Saint Paul City Council’s approval of the second phase of the Griggs-Scheffer street repaving and sidewalk project.

The project has generated controversy on two fronts. The first is the laying of new sidewalks along Edgcumbe Road between Hamline and Randolph avenues. Some Edgcumbe Road neighbors have fought that project under the banner of the Edgcumbe Preservation Group. They contend it will result in the loss of many mature trees and have asked the city to look at alternative designs. One idea raised would have put the sidewalk down the center of the street median.

The other controversy pertains to Edgcumbe Place, a cul-de-sac where seven homeowners have pushed the city to rebuild the street in the same path as the existing street. City officials have staked out the borders of the new street according to its legal description, but that repaving would require the loss of mature trees along with walls and fences.

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Griggs-Scheffer
The streets included in Phase 2 of the Griggs-Scheffer repaving project are shown in bold.

Ward 3 City Council member Chris Tolbert, who represents the area, acknowledged his constituents’ concerns. While some features of the project are still being discussed, Tolbert was adamant about the new sidewalks along Edgcumbe Road, calling them “an essential component in a city.”

Neighbors have debated the sidewalks with city officials since 2019. Some have suggested the sidewalks are not needed. Others have hired a landscape architect to present alternative plans to the city. Still others requested that the sidewalks be installed immediately adjacent to the street.

Edgcumbe Road residents David and Annette Swanson have testified that the sidewalks as designed by Public Works “will degrade the scenic beauty of one of Saint Paul’s most beautiful parkways. They would add substantially more paved surfaces than are appropriate for a low-traffic street with the associated loss of green space and mature trees.”

Edgcumbe Road is a popular route for people heading to local parks, according to Tolbert. “I don’t want to see strollers in the street,” he said. Besides, he added, filling gaps in the city’s network of sidewalks as part of street repaving projects has been city policy for years.

The Griggs-Scheffer project is expected to begin by the end of May and continue into the fall. Part of the work will include redesigning the Bohland Triangle to add more green space and improve traffic safety. The streets will get new pavement, curbs, gutters, catch basins, lighting, trees and sidewalks. Below-street utilities will be replaced along with driveway aprons and outwalks.

Tolbert said the city’s Department of Public Works will do what it can to work with neighbors on sidewalk plans. Trees that have to be removed will be replaced, according to him. More than 50 young trees are already scheduled to be planted where trees were removed in recent years.

City is willing to work with Egcumbe Place homeowners

Nick Peterson of Public Works said city officials are willing to work with the Edgcumbe Place residents on the plans. However, Tolbert cautioned that the complexity of the project may mean the neighbors do not get everything they want.

The Griggs-Scheffer project is expected to begin by the end of May and continue into the fall. Part of the work will include redesigning the Bohland Triangle to add more green space and improve traffic safety. The streets will get new pavement, curbs, gutters, catch basins, lighting, trees and sidewalks. Below-street utilities will be replaced along with driveway aprons and outwalks. All ash trees will be removed due to the threat of the emerald ash borer. Replacement trees will be planted in the spring of 2022.

The second phase of Griggs-Scheffer has an estimated cost of $12.6 million. The actual cost will not be known until the bids come in. Abutting property owners will be assessed for a quarter of the cost based on the frontage of their homes. The assessments can be paid in a lump sum or in annual installments with property taxes over 20 years. Senior citizens and people with disabilities may choose to delay payments, but any remaining balance must be paid when their property is sold.

Property owners may also choose to pay extra to replace the water and sewer service lines to their homes while the street is dug up.

— Jane McClure

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