St. Thomas is beginning the process of rezoning the two blocks bounded by Summit, Cretin, Grand and Cleveland avenues for future development, including construction of a music education building on Summit Avenue as early as the fall of 2000.
The initial plans call for the music education building on the southwest corner of Summit and Finn Street and a new McNeely Hall for the undergraduate Division of Business on the southwest corner of Summit and Cleveland.
Specific plans have not been developed for the blocks, but the general concept is several academic buildings on Summit, residential and possibly small commercial buildings on Grand, and underground parking. The university estimates it could take up to 25 years to develop the blocks.
St. Thomas owns all but six properties on the two blocks and hopes to purchase four of the properties — the homes at 2110 Summit and 2133 and 2139 Grand and the apartment building at 2151 Grand — over the next several years. The other two properties — the apartment building at 2085-2087 Grand and the Amoco station at 2067 Grand — are not as crucial to the short-term redevelopment of the two blocks.
To proceed with the project, the city first must rezone the property and change the university’s Special Condition Use Permit (SCUP), a 1990 agreement that governs new building issues on the St. Paul campus. St. Thomas also will need the city’s permission to raze any Summit buildings or homes because they are in a historic preservation district.
Discussion of SCUP and rezoning issues are under way with the Macalester-Groveland and Merriam Park community councils. Issues include the heights of new buildings, how close they can be to property lines, whether Finn Street should be closed between Summit and Grand, and when to vacate portions of the east-west alley between Cretin and Cleveland.
The university hopes to reach agreement with the community councils on the SCUP changes by next spring and submit them to the St. Paul Planning Commission for approval. Any appeals of commission decisions would go to the St. Paul City Council.
Historic district issues will be considered separately by the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. It has the authority to approve both razing of existing buildings and homes and designs for new buildings on Summit. Any appeals of commission decisions go to the city council.
St. Thomas has emphasized in on-campus and neighborhood presentations this fall that its plans for the two blocks are very general in nature and will evolve over time.
The music education building is a priority of the university’s Ever Press Forward capital campaign, and will include classrooms, practice rooms and offices. Construction could begin as early as fall 2000 if city approvals are received, and the building could open by the fall of 2001.
The building, under design by HGA Architects Inc. of Minneapolis, is expected to go on the site occupied by the Development Office building at 2120 Summit and the home of the Rev. Dennis Dease, president, at 2130 Summit. The university will relocate the Development staff in other quarters and is searching for a home for Dease.
The new building for the undergraduate Division of Business is expected to be located on the eastern portion of Christ Child Hall. A construction date has not been set, but it is expected within the next four years.
The new building also would be named McNeely Hall. The existing McNeely Hall would be used for other purposes in the short term and eventually would be razed for other new construction.
Planning has not begun for any other academic or administrative buildings on the south side of Summit. One suggestion has been an auditorium or recital hall on the southeast corner of Summit and Finn, to be connected to the music education building.
Planning also has not begun for the redevelopment of Grand. The university is interested in construction of apartment or townhouse units for students, faculty and staff, plus such possible commercial uses as a coffeehouse.