Concerns remain about public use of facilities.

The Saint Paul Planning Commission’s Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee voted 4-2 on May 10 to recommend the approval of six amendments to the master plan for the Highland Bridge redevelopment project. The changes would make it possible for the University of Saint Thomas to construct new baseball and softball stadiums and a parking lot near the southeast corner of the 122-acre site.

UST ballfields
This diagram above shows the University of Saint Thomas’ plan for new softball and baseball stadiums and a 200-space parking lot on the former site of the Canadian Pacific rail yard southwest of Montreal and Cleveland avenues.

The amendments will be reviewed by the full Planning Commission on May 26. They will then be forwarded to the City Council for a final public hearing and vote. 

New use for old CP Rail yard

The baseball and softball stadiums would have 1,500 and 1,000 seats, respectively. A shared concourse and an indoor practice facility are also planned along with a 330-space parking lot. The facilities would be constructed on 13.66 acres previously used as a rail yard by Canadian Pacific Railway.

The major amendments are technical in nature, centering on parking, setbacks, relocation of a shared transportation corridor and other site design issues. They have the support of UST and Highland Bridge master developer Ryan Companies.

Youth leagues hope to share in use of facilities

A representative of Highland Ball, which owns and operates two nearby ball fields, testified in support of the amendments. Several neighbors sent letters in support, as did Cretin-Derham Hall. Highland Ball, CDH and other local schools and sports programs may be able to share the proposed facilities.

UST plans to make the sport facilities available for rental by outside groups, although the rental fees have not been determined, according to Amy McDonough, chief of staff for UST president Robert Vischer. The parking lot will be available for free use when UST is not using it, she said.

Commissioners concerned about rent UST would charge

Planning commissioners Luis Rangel Morales and Deborah Mitchell cast the two votes against the amendments. Mitchell said that without knowing what UST would charge for ball field rental, she could not support the amendments.

Rangel Morales said public use of the fields is important to him as well. He was involved in the review of the original master plan for Highland Bridge, and he questioned whether the amendments would be consistent with that plan.

City planners Josh Williams and Spencer Miller Johnson said city staff consider UST’s use of the Highland Bridge parcel as consistent with the master plan and the site’s zoning.

Assistant City Attorney Peter Warner said that while the Planning Commission can state its preferences for the public’s use, it cannot require it as a condition for the master plan’s amendments.

Construction hinges on fundraising

The commissioners asked if they could delay action on the amendments, which need to be acted on by the City Council no later than July 14. (State law requires cities to act on zoning matters within 60 days.) UST and Ryan Companies have already agreed to one 60-day extension. A City Council vote is anticipated on July 12. When the $40 million sports complex would be built hinges on fundraising, UST officials said.

During the public hearing on the Highland Bridge amendments, most of the comments by members of the Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee focused on public use of the UST facilities. One commissioner said that UST had stopped leasing space to a summer youth camp on its main campus. Others questioned the amount of public involvement in the plans.

Highland neighbors kept abreast of stadium plans

Ryan Companies and UST officials have been meeting with the Highland District Council for more than a year to discuss plans for the Highland Bridge site. They have also hosted two open houses on UST’s plans for Highland Bridge. The HDC is recommending approval of the amendments.

Another issue the committee focused on is parking. The master plan for Highland Bridge encourages parking in ramps or within buildings, not in parking lots. UST’s parking lot is being planned in a way that it could be redeveloped as a parking ramp in the future.

Master plans are used by the city for large development projects to specify zoning and land uses, street networks, parks and other other physical details. The Highland Bridge master plan has been amended five times since it was adopted by the City Council in 2017. If the latest amendments are approved by the City Council, the site plan for the UST sports complex will still have to be approved by city staff. The Planning Commission could also choose to hold a public hearing on the site plan.

— Jane McClure


MyVillager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.


house ad


Leave a Reply