Council Rejects Proposal to Convert Brewery to Self-Storage in St. Paul, MN

Update 11/7/14 – The St. Paul, Minn., City Council has rejected Premier Storage’s plan to convert a former Schmidt Brewery warehouse to self-storage. The proposal narrowly passed the city’s zoning committee and full Planning Commission last month.

Update 11/7/14 – The St. Paul, Minn., City Council has rejected Premier Storage’s plan to convert a former Schmidt Brewery warehouse to self-storage. The proposal narrowly passed the city’s zoning committee and full Planning Commission last month.

Todd Jones, founder and principal of Premier Storage, was unable to convince the council that the facility would be an asset to the area, which is undergoing redevelopment, including the addition of artist loft apartments. The warehouse has been vacant for five years.

The council unanimously upheld an appeal filed by a neighborhood group called the Fort Road Federation against the planning commission’s October approval.

"We've got a gem, and just weeks after the ribbon was cut on the Schmidt [Artists Lofts], now as we approach the rest of the way down towards the river, we have this facing us—something that's totally inward-looking that has no outside excitement or invitation for people to become involved in the community,” said council member Dave Thune. “It's just dead storage, literally."

The council’s decision drew a scathing, released statement from the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, which said “businesses that want to invest in St. Paul are held hostage by unelected district councils.”

"The City Council's decision makes it clear that when you follow process and conform to city rules, the future of your business will be determined not by the jobs you create or the vitality of your business, but by the haphazard assessment of unelected district councils that claim to represent the interests of the entire community," chamber officials said in the press release.

10/6/14 – Premier Storage’s proposal to convert a warehouse in St. Paul, Minn., into a storage facility has narrowly passed votes by the planning commission’s zoning committee (4-2) and the full commission (9-8), and will be reviewed by the city council, according to a blog post by commissioner Bill Lindeke.

Lindeke voted against the proposal and wrote an article explaining his dissention and the issues surrounding non-conforming use permits, which is required for the self-storage project. At issue is whether storage is the best use for a structure that has sat vacant for five years but sits in an area experiencing an uptick in development.

“No matter what happens, this site offers an interesting test case for how planners view change in neighborhoods. Looking at its recent history, a good case can be made that this building and site lacks much potential,” Lindeke wrote. “It’s a huge, industrial, low-value building with high ceilings, sitting in an area that’s been economically marginal for decades. It been vacant for five years and, in that light, any re-use of the site would be beneficial.

“On the other hand, if we focus on the recent activity around the Schmidt Brewery, the site sits right on the Mississippi River bluff. (Randolph is one of rare streets that actually connects the river to the neighborhood.) And the site is located directly adjacent to a brand new 600-unit, mixed-use development. From this perspective, this is a prime piece of land that could have any number of (conforming) uses.”

To Lindeke, self-storage is not the right fit for the space. “I don’t think St. Paul should settle for a development proposal that doesn’t even come close to fitting with existing zoning in one of the few places where investment has changed the neighborhood dynamics,” he said.

8/21/14 – Premier Storage LLC, a Minneapolis-based self-storage operator, has submitted a proposal to convert a 67,000-square-foot warehouse in St. Paul, Minn., into a storage facility. Located near a new apartment complex featuring artist lofts, the structure has previously been used by an electric-utility company as well as a brewery and restaurant, according to the source. The conversion would require a special-use permit, and the St. Paul Planning Commission's zoning committee is expected to address the project on Thursday.

The former Schmidt Brewery warehouse at 543 James Ave. would feature all indoor, climate-controlled storage units. Neighboring developments have been supportive of the plan because of the low impact self-storage facilities have on noise and pollution, Todd Jones, founder and principal of Premier, told the source. “We think it’s a good use of the building,” he said.

Premier has an agreement to acquire the site from former brewery owner Bruce Hendry, the source reported. Premier has previously developed or owned about 40 self-storage facilities in Arizona, California and Minnesota. It currently operates seven Minneapolis Storage Centers locations in the Minneapolis area.


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