A proposal to vacate Saint Anthony Avenue in front of the Our Lady of Peace hospice will be considered by the Union Park District Council on July 7 with a recommendation of denial from its Transportation Committee. More than a dozen neighbors addressed the committee on June 14, asking that the street vacation be rejected.
The hospice would like to vacate Saint Anthony between Finn Street and Cleveland Avenue to create an employee parking lot. Several neighbors objected, saying the area already deals with considerable cut-through traffic as motorists try to avoid traffic lights on Cretin, Cleveland and Marshall avenues. They said vacating that stretch of Saint Anthony would only make traffic worse on other streets.
The hospice and the programs that are housed there have between 50 and 60 employees who park on Saint Anthony. “It’s their parking lot,” said Andrew Swartz, a consultant working with Our Lady of Peace. According to him, vacating the street and turning it into a parking lot would make it safer for employees.
The vacation request also includes a proposed bike and pedestrian trail. Some committee members said the short segment of the street would not connect to other trails and is not included in the Saint Paul Bicycle Plan.
Committee member Debbie Meister said that vacating a street to add a parking lot sets a bad precedent, especially after our Lady of Peace recently got city approval to expand its visitor parking.
“I don’t see a purpose and need for this,” said committee member Dan Elenbaas.
Several neighbors said they value the hospice as part of the neighborhood and would like to work together on traffic issues, rather than closing a street.
Some neighbors said they already anticipate more traffic as new apartment buildings fill up along Marshall between Cleveland and Cretin avenues. “We’re already being squeezed in a lot of ways,” said Carroll Avenue resident Peter Rozga.
“People are careening down our streets. It’s absolutely dangerous,” said Carroll Avenue resident Nancy Hone.
John Hewitt, who lives on Ann Arbor Street, said some neighborhood streets are too narrow to accommodate additional traffic. “If (Saint Anthony) closes, that’s going to send traffic to other streets,” he said.
The UPDC has only heard from a few people favoring the street vacation. One Saint Anthony resident who spoke on June 14 and did not give her full name said a street vacation would provide safety for her area.
The hospice recently obtained city site plan approval to expand its current visitor parking lot from 15 to 40 spaces. That required no district council or neighborhood review.
Vacating a street in Saint Paul requires City Council approval. A city spokesperson said while there has been an inquiry, a formal application to vacate Saint Anthony had not been filed as of late last week.
Our Lady of Peace also plans to expand its building into a current courtyard, converting its double-occupancy rooms to single occupancy in the process. The bed count would remain at 21. The building’s expansion is not related to the street vacation.
— Jane McClure
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