Metro State to start parking ramp construction

Neighborhood onboard, council director says

After a long process, which at times saw community members yelling at Metro State University officials, the two groups seem to have reached a happy conclusion.

Following approval and agreement among community members, St. Paul’s Planning Commission approved Metro State’s plans to build a new parking ramp and a student center on what’s now an enormous surface parking lot on the block surrounded by East Seventh Street, East Sixth Street, Bates Avenue and Maria Avenue.

Construction on the 760 stall parking ramp should begin the first week of May and be done in January 2015, according to Murtuza Siddiqui, chief financial officer at Metro State.

Construction for the student center should begin in July or August of 2014 and continue for roughly a year.

At the community’s request, the school will build the student center and bookstore along East Seventh, with its doors facing out towards the street, something that the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council was pushing for.

“(The plans) have been very well received after they made the changes we demanded,” said Deanna Foster, director of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council.

Though it took awhile for the university and the community to meet eye to eye, Foster said the result is a good one for both the school and the neighborhood. With the bookstore facing out onto East Seventh Street, the hope is that it will contribute to the walkable commercial corridor vibe the community council desires.

“The community is really pleased about it,” Foster said. “I think everyone’s much happier with the outcome.”

Siddiqui said the negotiations with neighbors led to “an outstanding outcome.”

“We got them incorporated,” he said.

To that end, the university has created a new neighborhood liaison group, assembling a committee of Metro State employees and community members to keep the neighborhood in touch with the school moving forward.

Foster said she hopes the creation of the group will mean “we can head off any problems like we just experienced.”

She equated the committee to a “partnership of planning,” as opposed to the university simply going to the neighborhood saying “here’s the done deal.”

Future plans for the university’s expansion on the St. Paul campus include adding a science center. Funding for this project has been requested in the 2014 state bonding bill.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
 

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