Como neighbors vent about vacant Sholom Home building

Neighbors are expressing increasing frustration with what they see as rising amounts of illegal activity in and around the former Sholom Home. Meanwhile, the current owner said he should know within a month whether a major construction company will partner with him to redevelop the vacant property on Midway Parkway.

During a community meeting organized by District 10 on July 28, neighbors said they routinely observe scrapping, squatters sleeping inside, drug sales and other unwelcome activity. Attendees also complained about the lack of effective response and coordination by police and private security to root out the problems.

Charter Midway LLC purchased the former nursing home in December 2015, with plans to turn it into an assisted-living and memory-care center. David Grzan, president and CEO, said Charter Midway continues to seek additional financing that would make the renovation possible and, he said, eliminate the opportunity for crime.

“We know there’s a problem there,” he told residents. “It’s a beacon for that activity. It attracts the wrong element.”

Interim steps: Even though St. Paul police list the building as a problem property, officers need direct permission from the property owners before they’ll enter, Western District commanders Ed Lemon and Bryant Gaden told neighbors on July 28. Further, the commanders said, response by patrol officers to a vacant building is generally going to be a lower priority than many other types of police calls.

Randy Olson, general manager of JBM Patrol and Protection, pledged to the dozen neighbors in attendance that he’ll work more closely with police in responding to problems and take additional steps to deter criminal activity and access. JBM took over as Charter Midway’s new security company in July.

Further, Charter Midway is following recommendations from the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections to better secure the building, including tearing out overgrown shrubbery; boarding up windows and doors from the outside, not just the inside; and adding “no trespassing” and other signs.

“But that’s an interim measure,” Grzan said. “The best cure is to put an operating business in there.”

Financing talks continue: Because many traditional sources of financing have turned down the project, Grzan said he now is in talks with Calgary-based Graham Construction Services about a potential partnership. Graham, which has offices in Eagan, is assessing cost estimates from several subcontractors about the feasibility of converting the buildings into 168 units of senior living.

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