It’s shovels and dirt for Metro State parking ramp


Construction on the long-awaited parking ramp at Metropolitan State University started on Tuesday, May 6. A groundbreaking celebration was held Friday, May 2, where school officials and the St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman toted the project as a sign of growth for the school. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

For a project that’s been in planning stages for three years, it’s a relief to the staff at Metropolitan State University to see construction begin.

Work crews at Metropolitan State University started building a 760-stall parking ramp on Tuesday, May 6, and should begin work on a new student center next door in June.

“We’re just pleased we’re underway,” said Dan Hambrock, associate vice president of the school, who’s been bustling around campus toting blueprints and coordinating the projects.

A groundbreaking ceremony on May 2 led the way to a summer of construction at the school, on what was until recently a surface parking lot that took up an entire city block.

The new facilities are intended to play a part in a larger expansion of the school - administrators are hoping to receive full funding through a state bonding bill to add a new science facility. With the expected growth in student body the new facility would bring, the school hopes to ease parking pressure on the neighborhood with the new ramp.

“These projects have been a long time coming, and they haven’t been easy,” said Metro State University president Sue Hammersmith.

And indeed, the project was delayed significantly, in part due to neighborhood opposition. The college had originally planned to put the parking ramp right up against East Seventh Street, but faced with community and city pressure, changed the designs.

The ramp will now be inset from the street, while a student center will face out onto the busy East Seventh Street.

Hammersmith said the end result shows how a good outcome can be reached “when people of good will but diverse perspectives come together and work through the issues for a common solution that will benefit all parties.” Hammersmith extended thanks to a variety of people involved with the project, naming Metro State students and faculty, city staff, the East Side Area Business Association and the Dayton’s Bluff District Council.

She also noted that the funding for the parking ramp and student center isn’t tax funded -- rather, it will be covered by student fees, and user fees for the parking ramp.

The parking ramp costs an estimated $17.6 million, while the student center is $11.6 million.

After the ramp is completed next January, students will automatically be paying a $10 per-credit-hour fee to cover construction costs.

It will take 18 years of student and user fees to pay off the cost of the parking ramp.

During the construction, students are not paying for parking.

The hope is that because access to the ramp will be built into tuition costs, students will have no motivation to park in the neighborhood as they have been doing, and instead will opt to park in the ramp, Hambrock said.

Mayor Chris Coleman touted the parking ramp as another indicator of the school’s progress.

“This is a place where you can come, and you can learn, and you can see a path forward,” he said of the school. He noted it was a challenging process, and thanked city council president Kathy Lantry and her aide Ellen Biales, as well as the Dayton’s Bluff District Council and the East Side Area Business Association.

The collaboration between city, school and neighborhood groups is “an important part of community building,” he said.

The former parking lot was closed as of Tuesday, May 6, and students and staff were directed to park at a temporary lot on the edge of downtown. Those using the temporary lot can then take a shuttle bus to the Metro State campus.

Hambrock said construction should be going on Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., though he said it was possible there might be some Saturday construction as well.

The ramp is projected to be completed in January 2015, while the student center should be done in July 2015.

Any neighbors with questions or concerns regarding construction are encouraged by the school to reach out. Residents can send an email to construction@metrostate.edu, visit the project website at http://www.metrostate.edu/msweb/resources/depts_services/bldg_services/neighborhood.html, call or leave a message on campus, at 651-793-1750 or contact the construction company’s job site superintendent at 952-525-2335.

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

 

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