The City of St. Paul is not interested in saving the empty Diamond Products factory in any way, shape or form.
That's the message from mayor Chris Coleman, who is sending a letter in response to constituent inquiries about the plan to save the factory where White Rain shampoo, Dippity-Do hair gel and other personal care products. It ceased operations in 2005.
A group of neighbors have been trying to save it from the wrecking ball. Their reason is not for any particular love of the hulking, near-windowless concrete structure itself but because of the parking they hope it might provide in lieu of the city's plan to build the Lowertown Ballpark on the site.
Coleman's letter says it's not going to happen: "Simply put, after repeated review and study of the site by city staff, consultants and other experts in the field, there remains no viable option for the reuse of the Diamond Products building, if the ballpark project is to move forward."
He also says that reusing the building for underground parking would add $12 million to the $54 million project.
The big concern is the elimination of the parking lot just north of the building, right where the ballpark is expected to sit. A city study estimated the lot will hold more than 200 vehicles (at bargain-basement prices, no less). The parking lot also includes dozens of parking spots for the Market House condo building on the other side of Broadway.
A city study pegged the estimated parking losses at about 300 stalls total. Coleman's letter says that the city is working with another downtown parking lot owner to try and find parking for the condo residents, but it's not likely to be right out their doorstep, like the current lot at 5th and Broadway.
An alternative version of the ballpark, built into the Diamond Products factory, was floated last week, by critics including former City Council candidate Bill Hosko. They want to convert the old factory into a multi-use auxiliary to the ballpark, with as many as 700 additional parking spaces.
They've got a video referencing the plan up on YouTube. It may be the world's ONLY Celtic homage to a virtually abandoned shampoo factory:
Here's a "Fact Sheet" on the reuse proposal, from the city:
And here's the mayor's letter: