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The Zoning Committee of the St. Paul Planning Commission on Thursday recommended approval of a five-story, mixed-use building with 80 market-rate apartments to replace the building that houses Dixie's On Grand. Committee members voted 5-1 in favor of the project, which would replace the one-story building and surface parking lot with a restaurant/apartment complex.

Supporters say the project would enliven a declining Grand Avenue. Opponents fear it is too massive for its historic neighborhood. The proposal will go before the Planning Commission on July 23.

As proposed, the $32.5 million project would have four businesses on the ground floor, including three restaurants. Dixie's, which opened on the site 30 years ago, will not be among them. Emmett's and Saji-Ya will continue in the new space, said Dixie's owner Peter Kenefick, who plans to retire.

But the project has sparked vigorous debate among its Summit Hill neighbors, one that continued during Thursday's online public hearing. Many nearby residents urged the committee to reject the conditional-use permits being sought by the developers to build a taller, more massive structure than current zoning allows. Most said they would rather see something smaller.

Marilyn Bach, who spoke in opposition, said developers haven't listened to the desires of most neighbors. "The public response was overwhelming. The building is massive. It is huge. It will overwhelm the neighborhood," she said.

Supporters argue that Grand needs more housing and the vibrancy that residents of 80 new first-class apartments would bring to the neighborhood.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428