Neighbors weigh in on Luther senior housing
Senior housing developer Ecumen is asking anyone who viewed the preliminary site plans for a senior housing co-op at Luther Place and Como Avenue at recent neighborhood meetings to do one thing: Forget about them.
The nonprofit developer who is negotiating with Luther Seminary to buy two tracts of land on the seminary campus, presented plans and renderings for three developments at an open house on Sept. 24 and at the District 12 Land Use Committee meeting on Oct. 1.
Those plans included a 60-unit owner-occupied senior housing co-op at the 1.3-acre site on the southeast border of the seminary and two developments at Eustis Street and Como across from HealthPartners. The Eustis developments would include a 121-unit apartment building with some assisted-living components and 20 percent affordable rates, and a 112-unit memory-care facility.
Neighbors packed the Oct. 1 District 12 meeting and raised concerns about the scale of the building, the impact it would have on parking and traffic along Luther Place, the loss of the green space that is used by the community for a spring ice cream social and other events, the loss of the oak trees on the lot, and the impact the development would have on St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church just across the street. The church has had a longstanding agreement with the seminary to share its parking lot at Luther Place.
In reaction to neighborhood concerns, Ecumen planned a series of three interactive workshops with developers and architects working on the projects and the community to gain feedback on development plans at the Luther Place and Como site. The first, held Oct. 13 at the University of Minnesota’s Continuing Education and Conference Center, had the more than 60 attendees break into four groups to discuss concerns and desires for a development on that site.
“What we heard at the Land Use meeting was that this community has a strong desire to have a deeper discussion about the end result,” said Tim Nichols, who is part of the development team.
Ecumen has stopped all design processes, he told the Oct. 13 meeting attendees, and is taking “steps backward” to listen, then study new ideas, then integrate those ideas into a new design. The second meeting, to be held Oct. 20 at St. Anthony Park United Methodist Church, 2200 Hillside Ave., will be a “distillation of those ideas” and discussion of the historic roots of the neighborhood and the vision for the area outlined in the City of St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park Como 2030 comprehensive plan, said Matt McNeill, Ecumen’s director of business development.
The Como 2030 plan facilitated zoning changes along Como Avenue to allow more mixed-use development and increase housing options along the corridor. The study for that plan was commissioned by the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation and was approved by the St. Paul City Council in 2012.
A third meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, will “integrate the input from the previous two workshops and discuss a comprehensive design solution for the proposed building and site,” McNeill said. That meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Methodist Church, 2200 Hillside Ave.
Ecumen is also planning to distribute an electronic survey to gather neighborhood feedback. The survey will be disseminated on the neighborhood listserv through District 12. You can also email your thoughts and ideas about the project to Ecumen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Ecumen is committed to making sure that everyone who has an interest in the project has the opportunity to be heard and will schedule additional workshops in early November if necessary,” McNeill said.
It appears there would be considerable synergy with this project and Health Partners, which has recently designated the Como facility as a geriatric health center. Access is good with Hwy280, and the neighborhood has needed quiet for an elderly home. I think assisted living centers can blend in quite well in residential neighborhoods, I see this all the time. Consider the St. Anthony Park nursing home that is long-standing in the commercial center, or the homes along the Parkway between the St. Fair grounds and the west end of Como Park.
When will architects learn to value the old trees? (Consider the majestic trees cut for the Roseville library expansion for parking. What an extraordinary loss. And yes, green space is of great value too.)