The developer of a 72-unit apartment building in Highland Park either had to change its plans or file an appeal with the City Council following decisions made on September 16 by the Saint Paul Planning Commission.

workforce housing
The site of the proposed 72-unit workforce housing development at Graham Avenue and Sue Street in Highland Park is outlined in red above.

The commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for added building height. It also recommended City Council approval of a zoning change at the southwest corner of Sue Street and Graham Avenue. However, the commission rejected variances for floor area ratio and for a reduced setback along Sue. A majority of the commissioners maintained that the project did not meet the required findings for the variances, including one for practical difficulty.

Senior Housing Partners chose in the last week of September to appeal the decision on the frontyard setback variance on Sue. The appeal is expected to be heard by the City Council in October, though no date has yet been announced.

Four-story structure would be built on three lots.

Senior Housing Partners is an affiliate of Presbyterian Homes and Services. It wants to build a four-story apartment building on the current site of two duplexes at 1413 Sue St. and 1883 Norfolk Ave. and a third parcel at 1891 Norfolk. The lot at 1883 Norfolk is zoned for single-family use and must be rezoned. The other two parcels are already zoned for multifamily housing.

Presbyterian Homes operates several senior housing complexes in the area, including Highland Path and Highlands of Saint Paul. The proposed building has been described as “workforce housing” with apartments that could house employees of Presbyterian Homes.

Neighbors are concerned about parking congestion.

Many local residents oppose the project. They have complained that the abundance of senior housing facilities in the area has  caused parking congestion and raised concerns about traffic safety.

A motion to deny the setback variance was passed by the Planning Commission on a 7-6 vote. The minimum frontyard setback in a multifamily zoning district is 25 feet. Senior Housing Partners sought a setback of 14 feet, 7 inches. According to the developer, that block of Sue Street has an usually wide 80-foot right-of-way. That means that even with the variance, the building would be set back more than 39 feet from the street.


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Developer wants to add 55 spaces of off-street parking.

In response to concerns about parking congestion, the developer added off-street parking to its plans—a total of 35 structured spaces and 20 spaces in a surface parking lot. Some planning commissioners suggested eliminating the surface parking lot. The city of Saint Paul no longer requires a mininum number of off-street parking spaces for a development. Removing the parking lot would eliminate the need for the setback variance along Sue and reduce the need for the floor-area-ratio variance.

— Jane McClure


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