St. Paul blocks ‘private dorms’ near St. Thomas

The St. Paul City Council has placed a one-year moratorium on private dormitories near the University of St. Thomas.

The council passed the moratorium last night in response to a five-story apartment building that a local real estate developer expects to start building later this year right next to the school's St. Paul campus.


Architect's rendering of the Grand Finn Apartments as presented to the City of St. Paul.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.

Neighbors fought to block the building, which consists of 20 four-bedroom units resembling the suite-style accommodations often found in modern dormitories. They said the building would dwarf the surrounding structures and worried the students who'd live there would become a nuisance.

The council was powerless to stop the project, because it fit perfectly into the established zoning code.

"This is such a bad, bad proposal and such a bad building," Council Member Dave Thune said of the project when the council approved it. "I think the city has done a terrible disservice to the whole community if we can't turn this down. "

Over the next year, the city's planning commission will study whether to tighten the zoning rules on the three-quarter mile stretch of Grand Ave. between Cretin and Fairview.

The moratorium applies only to buildings over 40 feet tall and those that have "design features similar to that of 'dormitory' style housing." It has no effect on the Grand Finn Apartments, because they have already been approved.

The developer, Cullen LLC, did not respond to a request for comment. The university, which opposed an ordinance passed earlier this year restricting student rental housing in the area, hasn't taken a position on the moratorium.