savoy
Listening House wants to turn the former Red's Savoy restaurant on East Seventh Street and Lafayette Road into a drop-in day shelter.

Listening House’s plan to convert a former restaurant at 421 E. Seventh St. into a drop-in day shelter for homeless people is moving forward with the offer of a $1.4 million forgivable loan from the city of Saint Paul. The allocation was approved on July 27 by the City Council acting as the Saint Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board. If the shelter remains open for at least 10 years, the loan will not have to be repaid.

Listening House’s goal is to have the new shelter operating before winter, according to city staff. The building was the site of Red’s Savoy, at the intersection of East Seventh Street and Lafayette Road in a neighborhood dominated by commercial uses.

The HRA waived the typical 45-day notice period to keep the project moving forward. That drew questions from neighboring business owners and City Council member Jane Prince. Prince’s Ward 7 includes Listening House’s other daytime shelter at First Lutheran Church in Dayton’s Bluff.

The HRA waived the typical 45-day notice period to keep the project moving forward. That drew questions from neighboring business owners and City Council member Jane Prince. Prince’s Ward 7 includes Listening House’s other daytime shelter at First Lutheran Church in Dayton’s Bluff. The former restaurant is in Ward 2, but near the borders of Wards 5 and 7.

   

Listening House bought the former restaurant property in June. The forgivable loan will pay for the building’s renovation, a new kitchen, bathrooms, and computer and meeting spaces. According to Molly Jalma, executive director of the nonprofit Listening House, it will give people a place to relax, take a nap, get something to eat, and meet with social service providers. It will be the first building Listening House has owned in its more than 30 years of existence, she said.

According to Jalma, the new shelter will serve about 200 people per day. More important, it will also be open on weekends and in the evening.

Listening House will not need a conditional use permit from the Saint Paul Planning Commission to operate the new shelter. Its long-term plan is to expand the East Seventh facility and close the shelter in Dayton’s Bluff.

 

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The $1.4 million loan approved on July 27 is from a $28 million pool of unspent tax increment financing (TIF) money. The HRA recently approved the TIF fund, which is allowed under a 2021 state law giving cities more flexibility in spending TIF.

Until this spring, Listening House operated a second daytime shelter in Saint Paul’s West End. Freedom House opened in 2021 in a former fire station at 296 W. Seventh St. to address a need after COVID-19 closed the libraries and other public facilities where homeless people used to spend the day. However, the shelter was blamed for an increase in crime and other disturbing behavior in the neighborhood. 

Several West End residents and business people sued the city and Listening House last year in Ramsey County District Court. The judge ruled that the city failed to follow its own processes in opening the facility. He ordered Freedom House closed until those processes were followed. The city plans to return the West Seventh building to the Fire Department.

— Jane McClure

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