Central Corridor Issues

By:  John T. Schmick

Development of Light Rail Transportation (LRT) along University Avenue in St. Paul has been front page news as pre-construction activity for the project, such as moving utility lines, begins. A recent article in the Highland Villager (Getting out while they can, Feb. 23-Mar. 8, 2011) highlights some of the problems created by the project including the most common complaint: loss of on-street parking that is forcing businesses to relocate or close. Often overlooked in news articles of this nature are the many zoning changes that also impact corridor properties.

In an upcoming article (Spring Issue 2011) of the Shenehon Newsletter, author John Schmick discusses problems created for property owners by zoning changes made prior to eminent domain takings for the Central Corridor LRT project. The Central Corridor Overlay District, enacted in 2008 and due to expire in June 2011, put in place new zoning performance standards for corridor properties. When the overlay district expires, it will be replaced by permanent zoning changes that include many of those same (or similar) performance standards. New requirements for building setbacks, development density, and on-site parking will have a dramatic impact on properties in the Central Corridor area. These changes created a tremendous shift in non-conformity for many properties which must be addressed in the eminent domain cases that are now in the pre-taking negotiating stage. Understanding how these changes affect current and future property owners and businesses along the corridor is essential to the successful resolution of condemnation litigation.