• Anderson Student Center takes one step forward

    The City of St. Paul has determined that the proposed Anderson Student Center and Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex at St. Thomas do not have the potential for significant environment impacts.

    “An Environmental Impact Statement is not required,” Cecile Bedor, director of the St. Paul Planning and Economic Development Department, wrote Friday in signing a document that said the project’s Environmental Assessment Worksheet provided “adequate” information.

    EAW approval does not authorize St. Thomas and Opus, the architect and contractor, to begin construction on the student center, but instead informs city agencies about environmental issues as they consider requests for construction permits. An EIS would have been a more rigorous review that would have led to delays for the project.

    “Areas where potential environmental effects have been identified are being addressed during the detail design of the project,” the EAW document states. “Mitigation will be provided where impacts are expected to result from project construction, operation, or maintenance.”

    The decision concludes the seven-month, mandatory EAW review by the city and SRF Consulting Inc. of Plymouth. Topics included land use, water quality, air quality, noise, vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic and the project’s impact on the West Summit Avenue Historic District.

    Among recommended changes are pedestrian improvements at the intersection of Cretin and Summit avenues, including larger concrete “staging areas” on the four corners and wider Summit median sidewalks that parallel both sides of Cretin. The EAW also recommends traffic signal changes in the vicinity, including left-turn arrows at the Cretin-Grand intersection.

    St. Thomas and Opus will proceed on several fronts this month:

    • Opus will obtain permits to demolish O’Shaughnessy Hall in order to complete construction on the athletic and recreation complex, which will open in early August. Opus expects demolition to begin the week of March 8. Lot H will remain open for parking until mid to late April, when Opus hopes to obtain construction permits for the student center.
    • The St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission will hold two public hearings on March 25 (back-to-back at 5 p.m., Room 40, City Hall). The commission will review the student center’s design because of its location in the historic district and will consider sidewalk improvements at the Summit-Cretin intersection, which also is in the historic district.
    • The St. Paul Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee will hold a public hearing on April 1 (3:30 p.m., City Council Chambers, City Hall) on two issues: the site plan review conducted by the Department of Safety and Inspections and St. Thomas’ request to modify a permit related to zoning code compliance on parking.

    The site plan review examines a wide variety of issues related to codes, fire safety, utilities, water and sewer use, and landscaping. The review also will require St. Thomas to prepare a Traffic Demand Management Plan for the campus and have city approval on the plan by Sept. 1.

    The parking issue involves the university’s 1990 Special Condition Use Permit, which governs development of the main and south campuses. The permit requires St. Thomas to provide, within 600 feet, one parking space for every four seats in O’Shaughnessy Stadium and Schoenecker Arena. St. Thomas will fall short of those requirements because of the removal of Lots H, E and F, and will ask the Planning Commission to modify the permit to allow parking beyond 600 feet. St. Thomas will state that it will have more than 2,580 on-campus parking spaces within easy walking distance; that games in the stadium and arena are on weeknights and Saturdays, when parking is plentiful; and that the majority of spectators at St. Thomas games are resident or commuter students who walk.

    Any decisions made by the two commissions can be appealed to the St. Paul City Council. In that case, the council would hold public hearings in April, before making decisions.

    St. Thomas continues to work closely on all student center issues with the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from the university and four community organizations.

    The EAW was published in December and can be accessed at http://www.wsnac.net. The “Record of Decision” document on the need for an EIS will be published on the same Web site by the end of this week. Questions about the EAW or city reviews can be directed to Doug Hennes, University Relations, (651) 962-6402.

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