Saint Kate’s Parking Lot Wants to Pave the Trees

Mendell Hall, Saint Paul’s finest road block.

A friend, who happens to be a Saint Catherine’s alum, told me a tale about the not too distant past. The city of Saint Paul was looking to run Prior Avenue straight through Saint Kate’s campus. Things like that take time and as soon as the nuns at the school heard the city’s plan they worked overtime and rushed the building of Mendell Hall. The building now stands as a formidable blockade to the trajectory of Prior Avenue: a charmingly obstinate Saint Paul political maneuver and a strong refusal of putting pavement where pavement doesn’t belong.

Where are those nuns now?

Saint Kate’s is now planning on doing the paving itself, this time in the form of a surface parking lot smack dab in the middle of the picturesque woods next to the quaintly-named Dewdrop Pond. The new parking lot is projected to have 257 spots, and is being built in anticipation of programs moving from downtown Minneapolis to the Saint Paul campus.

Mike, this parking lot is dumb.

Who needs campus charm?

I live approximately 150 feet from the site of the new parking lot and using what I would consider strong anecdotal data, no additional parking lot is necessary. Never have I arrived home to find my parking spaces filled with college student cars. In fact, requests for parking permits in the nearby neighborhood are significantly down, such that there’s even consideration of removing some of the permit-parking-only zones.

According to one of my neighbors who was at a recent meeting about the plan, city parking minimums are also being dragged out as a defense of adding yet another surface lot. And I feel like we were just talking about how stupid parking minimums were, and here we are again with another educational institution in town being forced to spend unnecessary money in service to a ordinance that’s actively hostile to the best interests of the community.

This parking lot proposal sits right in the heart of Highland Park, a community which has spent the last year in a knock-down drag-out fight about parking and development. Just about the only thing everyone can agree on is that we do not want to encourage more car traffic and that we like green space. A 257-space parking lot provides a strong incentive to car traffic at the direct and immediate cost of green space. Once those old trees are gone, they’re not coming back.

This parking lot proposal is a waste of money, time, and a timeless amenity. It’s a fool thing for Saint Kate’s to pursue, and it’s my hope that they ask the city for an exemption to the parking minimum.

I also think it’s a good reason for the rest of us to ask the city what purpose these college parking minimums are serving in our community.

Tom Basgen

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