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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St. Paul / Program would offer downtown a facelift

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Blogger Bob said...

Historic buildings could fix exteriors
By Alex Friedrich
Article Last Updated: 03/18/2008 11:38:01 PM CDT

St. Paul is considering a program that would help owners of historic downtown buildings spiff them up a bit — perhaps in time for the Republican National Convention.

The program, to be discussed today at a public hearing, would allow buildings to receive up to $500,000 each to improve their facades. Their owners would pay back the amount through tax assessments.

With only $2 million available now — money left over in an assessment fund — city officials say they would be able to help out only a handful of buildings. Already a half-dozen building owners have expressed interest, and a local real estate broker said he would like to see the program grow to include nonhistoric structures.

"There's been very little investment" in buildings' exteriors, said John Mannillo, chairman of the Downtown Building Owners Association, which backs the program. "We need to change that. ... It's a formula for failure."

The money would pay for improvements such as cleaning brick, painting exteriors and filling and sealing parts that are crumbling, city officials say.

After such work, a building "will be noticeably different," said City Council Member Dave Thune. "It'll look brighter."

Better-looking buildings would improve the city's tax base and could eventually draw more people downtown, Mannillo said.

"It's clearly in the public realm and benefit to do it," he said.

City officials say representatives of five buildings have expressed interest so far: the Allen Building, Hotel Lowry, Hamm Building, Great Northern Lofts and Lowertown Lofts.

Kristel Hansen, of the Markham Co. of St. Paul, which owns the 89-year-old Hamm Building, said the company is considering the program because it would like to replace aging windows in the building and make repairs to its terra cotta exterior.

Many of the potential program candidates are in Lowertown, but Mannillo said the program should eventually expand to all of downtown. Nine of 10 buildings between Robert and St. Peter streets need work, he said.

"That's really where (the program) would be needed," he said.

The city is getting involved to make financing easier. Supporters of the program say building owners might not be able to afford a bank loan, and the city can front them money more cheaply than private financiers would.

Building owners wouldn't repay the money as they would a loan. Instead, the city would tack on a tax assessment each year, which Thune said is a more reliable way of getting the money back. The owners would have up to 20 years to pay the amount back with interest.

And the program would keep the money in the family, supporters say. The owners who have expressed interest have been locals, Thune said, and "not owned by some conglomeration of investors in New York."

Thune said the program was not a response to the Republican National Convention, but he also said the Sept. 1-4 convention "has given us more incentive to get it going."

Alex Friedrich can be reached at 651-228-2109.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get real, we raise property taxes because the the city doesnt know it head from its ass and all of the sudden we found 2 million dollars to loan out for just a few ?

How do we go about deciding who is going to get the money ?

Hold a lottery ?

Someone should be watching to see just who is going to get the money.

Who's idea was this ?

The timing of it stinks considering
the budjet crisis.

Our tax dollars should be going to public services period !

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can think of some city council members who could use a face lift
and brain surgery to boot !!!

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this were a landlord on the East Side, the council would have the attitude that if the owner didn't have the money to take care of his property, then they would just tear it down. Why not tear these buildings down and get someone in there to build something for somemone who wants to take care of it?

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

St Paul has been dumping money downtown fro decades at the expense of the neighborhoods. This is nothing new.

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we brought back the "LOOP" for hot rodders after the light rail goes in on university, well then downtown would have a night life again.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring back the "LOOP"!
St.Paul'ites had pride in St.Paul, no one cares, one way or another if St.Paul lives or dies now.
We are worried and concerned that the people we elected stand up for the people, not stand with their hand out for gratuities that comes under the table

5:42 AM  
Blogger Love Kpop said...

I like to get up early to go out and breathe fresh air. I feel that it is good for health and a good habit

9:04 PM  

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