A rendering of the pair of duplexes Jeffrey and Rebecca Austin want to construct fronting Dousman Street. The project would be adjacent to a 120-year-old barn at 159 Dousman.

A vacant parcel that has long been occupied only by billboards could soon become home to a pair of West End duplexes. The Saint Paul Planning Commission approved five variances on May 14 for the project at 300 Banfil St./149-155 Dousman St.

Last month, the commission also recommended that the 5,674-square-foot property be rezoned from commercial to multifamily residential use. The rezoning request is pending City Council approval in June. A public hearing will be held before the vote.

City records show that the property has been vacant since at least 1940. The site is owned by Jeffrey and Rebecca Austin, who also own an adjacent two-story commercial building at 504-506 W. Seventh St.

In their application, the Austins said that the variances were needed due to the lot’s wide width and shallow depth. One variance is for four off-street parking spaces instead of the required six. The other variances were from the minimum setback of roughly 9 feet on all four sides of the property. One-foot setbacks are proposed for the front, back and north side yards, while a 6.3-foot setback is proposed for the south side yard.

The developers, Stonewood Investments LLC, said the project will provide “missing middle” housing for four families. Such housing is defined as duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes that are compatible in scale and form with single-family homes. 

Each duplex would have a two- and a three-story unit, and each unit would have a single-stall garage and one off-street parking space.

Lara Duddingston, who lives on Superior Street, praised the design. “The project looks really cute and would be great for the neighborhood,” she said.


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City staff recommended approval of the zoning change and variances. The project also has the support of the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation.

However, neighborhood reaction to the project has been mixed. While some neighbors said they appreciate seeing the property developed, others have objected to the number of variances and feel that the development is too large for its site.

Pete Degan owns a 120-year-old barn at 159 Dousman adjacent to the development site. His building has had several tenants over the years, including a wood shop and an advertising agency. He believes the duplexes will block light and air for his property. 

“Building nearly to the edge of the property will needlessly crowd the sidewalk, inhibit sightlines for drivers and pedestrians, and diminish the neighborhood aesthetic,” said Goodhue Street resident C.J. Lindor.

Other neighbors said the project will fit nicely in the area. Lara Duddingston, who lives on Superior Street, praised the design.

“The project looks really cute and would be great for the neighborhood,” she said.

— Jane McClure


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