Through his kitchen window in St. Paul’s Como neighborhood, John Perozino has watched the vacant building across the street deteriorate.
The lower windows of 1554 Midway Pkwy. are boarded up. On upper floors many are shattered. One winter, the pipes burst, turning the facade into a wall of ice.
Like many of his neighbors, Perozino is ready for a change.
That change could be in the works.
A local developer hopes to convert the former Sholom Home East senior home into a 150-unit apartment complex. Neighbors welcome news of the development of a complex that has sat vacant since 2012. But this isn’t the first attempt.
Several proposals, from high-end apartments to supportive housing, have been pitched over the years. Each failed to pan out. Sometimes it was pushback from neighbors. Other times funding fell through.
This time, developers need two variances from the city to bypass existing limits on density and parking requirements.
It wouldn’t need those variances if the city’s Planning Commission adopts zoning changes to encourage density and reduce or eliminate parking requirements for developments near transit corridors. The project aligns with goals outlined in St. Paul’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan to increase housing density, especially near public transportation.
With its oldest section built in 1923, the buildings have been vacant since 2012. Michael Kuchta, executive director of the District 10 Como Community Council, said this project is difficult because the building has been vacant for so long.
“The hard thing from a community perspective is trying to figure out what is the kind of project that would meet community needs and not have a huge adverse impact,” Kuchta said.
Nearly 100 of the units would have one bedroom; the others would range from studio to three bedrooms.
Current city density standards require 1,500 square feet of lot space for each proposed unit. The developer, Midway Community Group LLC, hopes to get by with just over half that. Plans also come 86 spaces short of the 166 required to meet city parking requirements.
Jeff Laux, whose name is on the application for variances submitted last month, did not respond to requests for comment.
Some neighbors are concerned that that many apartments could put stress on street parking, particularly during the State Fair. Documents submitted as part of the requests say future residents may not need a vehicle because of the bus routes on Snelling and Como avenues.
Perozino, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 30 years, said he just wants to see something done with the building.
“I’m real flexible. I’m not a militant,” he said. “Put apartments in there, but make sure it works for the majority of people.”
The district council’s land use committee is scheduled to discuss the project Feb. 10, potentially voting on whether to support it. The full community council board would add its advisory recommendation to St. Paul’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which will hear the case Feb. 24. That decision could be appealed to the City Council.
Dylan Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.