New building could replace abandoned lot

Across from Davanni’s on Grand and Cleveland avenues, a development may be built where students can eat, shop and live.

<p>Caption (Marc Lane/TommieMedia)</p>
What is currently an abandoned service station could be replaced by a residential and commercial building by summer 2010. (Marc Lane/TommieMedia)

“It sounds sweet,” junior Felisha Willaert said. “I think as students, we could use more commercial options in terms of restaurants and stores closer to St. Thomas.”

If the project gets the go-ahead, the construction is planned to begin in the late spring or summer of 2010, said architect David Graham.

“The redevelopment site at Grand and Cleveland was selected because the existing site is blighted with an abandoned service station, and the intent is to create a high quality, vibrant redevelopment in its place,” Graham said.

The building is designed by Elness Swenson Graham Architects and Johnson Companies will construct it if the plan goes through.

“The residential component of the redevelopment will be high quality residential apartments geared to a variety of users and the general population,” he said.

Because the residential and commercial development is close to the St. Thomas campus, some members of the community are concerned that it will become like a student dorm, said Joel Clemmer, who is on the Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s board of directors.

John Hershey, neighborhood liaison for St. Thomas, said developers probably aren’t interested in catering solely to students and the building then becoming a kind of “off-campus dorm.”

High price of rent could drive away students

But at the Macalester-Groveland Community Council Housing and Land Use meeting, the developers said their pricing would not encourage undergraduate students to live in the apartments, according to Leo Viktora, who is also on the Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s board of directors.

Even so, Hershey said the high price may not prevent some students from living in the apartments.

“You may have some [students’] families that say this a brand new building, really nice apartment and really close to campus, and I’m willing to pay that [price], whatever that [price] is,” Hershey said.

Willaert said she was very excited about the possibility of having more apartments closer to campus.

“I’m sure students will be vying for those [apartments], despite the possibility of maybe paying a higher rent,” Willaert said.

The corner of Cleveland and Grand avenues is a good place for business, Hershey said.

“You have a really nice development at Coffee Bené and Davanni’s,” Hershey said. “It’s an active corner. To put a third corner in a city near a residential neighborhood, there are certain things people are interested in. My concern is the kind of [stores and restaurants] that goes in there.”

Daniel said she likes the idea of putting something else on the lot and getting rid of the abandoned gas station.

“It would be super cool if we got a Buffalo Wild Wings,” she said. “I want something that is open late, maybe even an Applebee’s.”

Development obstacles

The development would have to be rezoned to a mixed-use classification because it would be on land that is currently zoned as only commercial or residential, Viktora said.

He said rezoning the site to a this classification generally requires substantial agreement from adjacent landowners who are within a 300-foot radius of the site.

The other concern some members of the community have is the size of the building.

“You want to stand half of a block away and not feel something in your eye,” Clemmer said.

Rebekah Frank can be reached at

2 Replies to “New building could replace abandoned lot”

  1. “some members of the community are concerned that it will become like a student dorm”

    ohh noo! because catering to the students is such a terrible idea. they are nothing but rambunctious punks!

    i don’t get why people around here have such an obsession with the smell of their own flatulence

  2. I don’t see why it would be a bad thing if it acted like an off-campus dorm… It would get students out of the neighborhoods and closer to campus, isn’t that what the neighborhood wants?

    This reminds me of the agreement between the neighborhood and UST that forces the school to turn over 50 something houses from student rental houses into family houses, it simply pushes the problem onto another street. The bottom line is that St. Thomas is a big school and the students need to live somewhere. By forcing students out of one house/apartment building the neighborhood is simply pushing them onto another street. It does nothing to solve the problem.

    More buildings like this for students to live in that are closer to campus and away from the quiet streets with families is exactly what we need. The neighborhood should encourage more buildings like this to be built for students because this is the only way to get students out of the neighborhood.

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