Proposed St. Paul Retail Development Hits Snag

A city zoning committee recommended that a permit for a pawn shop-a key component of a proposed retail development at 1891 Suburban Avenue-be denied; but some say that the development could result in the creation of about 200 jobs.

Planners from the City of St. Paul are considering a proposed retail development at the site of a former car dealership, but plans for a pawn shop at the shopping center may not receive the necessary permit to move forward.

The St. Paul zoning committee, a subcommittee that advises the city's planning commission, on Thursday recommended in a 3-to-2 vote that a permit be denied for a pawn shop at the proposed development at 1891 Suburban Avenue. The subcommittee, however, recommended that permits for other portions of the development be approved with conditions.

Developer Red Dog Holdings, LLC, has plans to open “a pawn shop; restaurants, including three fast-food restaurants; and service businesses,” as well as “an auto specialty store,” according to documents filed with the City of St. Paul.

A primary reason why the zoning committee recommended that the planning commission deny the permit is because of a zoning law that requires pawn shops to be at least 1,320 feet from an “alternative financial establishment.” Under the proposed development plans, the pawn shop would be only 1,053 feet from a check cashing and money transfer business called The Piggy Bank.

Also, those opposed to the permit say the proposed use is not consistent with the “Sun-Ray Suburban Small Area Plan,” a City Council-approved development plan for the revitalization of the area in St. Paul where the proposed retail center would reside, according to Janelle Tummel, a spokeswoman for the city's planning and economic development department. The approved plan states that developments in the area should produce a “connected, pedestrian-oriented community” and feature a mix of land uses, including residential development.

Michael Belaen of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter in support of the proposed development. In his letter, he states that the project is expected to create between 180 and 220 new jobs, generate roughly $110,000 in new property taxes for the city, and increase sales tax revenue.

The letter also indicates that the developer of the site has received letters of intent from the following businesses, which could become tenants of the retail center: MaxIt Pawn, Dairy Queen, Starbucks, Cowboy Slim's, and Chipotle.

Tummel described the job projection as “the applicant's assertion,” adding that the city's “staff has no knowledge of the number of jobs that would be created other than the testimony of the applicant.”

The city's planning commission will consider the permit application on Friday, and it can choose to adopt or dismiss the zoning committee's recommendation. If it denies the permits, the developer will have a 10-day window in which to file an appeal.