"Bridges" project clears first hurdleby Marisa Helms, Minnesota Public Radio
A St. Paul planning committee Thursday night approved new zoning for a controversial housing, hotel and retail complex on the Mississippi River.
St. Paul, Minn. — After a nearly five hour public hearing St. Paul's zoning committee voted 4-3 to approve changes that would allow the Bridges of St. Paul project to be built.
By approving the rezoning, the committee went against a city staff report.
Bridges of St. Paul developer Jerry Trooien asked to change the zoning for the development to allow for greater density and no limit on building heights.
During more than three and a half hours of testimony before the vote, National Park Service worker Steve Johnson told the committee the new zoning goes against the spirit and design plans for the Mississippi River landing and bluffs.
"Tall structures will forever change the character of this place and this place is what makes St. Paul different. It is the river and its grand vista that makes St. Paul what it is. Why would you give that away?" he asked.
Trooien's site plan includes high rises ranging from five to 32 stories. Trooien told the committee high buildings would add to the beauty of the site.
"When the site gets up in the air with the parking underneath, what happens is, and you can see this vividly from our office, the river becomes framed," he said. "It becomes like a European city where it's more intimate. And so it really at the end of the day, does have everything to do with beauty."
The zoning change must still be approved by the full planning commission and the St. Paul City Council.