706 Mississippi River Blvd.
The Highland River Parkway Apartments are planned for 706 S. Mississippi River Blvd.

Neighbors of a planned 93-unit, four-story apartment building at 706 S. Mississippi River Blvd. are raising objections to the prospect of such a large building near their homes. Paster Properties will present plans for the project at the Highland District Council (HDC) Community Development Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 16. The meeting will be in-person and virtual (visit highlanddistrictcouncil.org/calendar for the link).

An 18-unit apartment building on the site and a closed First Church of Christ-Scientist just to the south would make way for the new building. It is in an area zoned for multifamily use and requires no zoning changes or variances under the current plans that city staff are studying.

Mike Sturdivant of Paster said the developer is discussing issues with neighbors and will continue to do so.

Neighbors on Woodlawn Avenue and Mississippi River Boulevard worry that the building, its heating and cooling systems, and its outdoor amenities would be very close to their homes, especially those behind it on Woodlawn. Having another tall building near them is a worry on top of the added density and traffic that redevelopment of the former Ford Motor Company site will bring. Ford is being developed into the mixed-use Highland Bridge.

Another issue is the building’s height of almost 50 feet. One argument neighbors are making is that the development site’s location in the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area should be considered. A review and amendment process for the critical area, including new building height restrictions, has been underway for the past few years at the state and city levels.

“There has been no transparency on this development with the surrounding neighbors, which has resulted, frankly, in outrage,” Neurer said.

Had Saint Paul implemented its proposed river corridor regulations, the maximum building height at the development site would be 35 feet. Updated critical area regulations have already been incorporated into the Highland Bridge development.

 

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The development site is considered to be a “river neighborhood” zone under the critical area. Neighbors contend that the building will be out of compliance by the time the city finally adopts its critical area revisions.

Woodlawn neighbor Wendy Neurer summarized the other concerns as the loss of mature pine trees that have screened back yards, building setbacks, location of balconies on the east and north sides of the building, and placement of a dog run right up against the property line.

Lack of information on exterior lighting is another worry for neighbors. So is parking. Although parking is planned as part of the development, Saint Paul earlier this year eliminated the need for developers to provide a minimum amount of parking.

“There has been no transparency on this development with the surrounding neighbors, which has resulted, frankly, in outrage,” Neurer said. She added that issues could have been resolved by Paster working with neighbors from the start.

— Jane McClure

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