St. Paul’s Lowertown ballpark won’t need to undergo the scrutiny of further environmental review, saving the city thousands of dollars and helping ensure that it will be built in time for the 2015 Saints baseball season.
City officials said Tuesday that the ballpark’s environmental assessment work sheet is finished and that it concludes, among other things, that there is more than enough parking in Lowertown to accommodate residents, workers, customers and ballpark visitors.
The city also released two preliminary renderings of the ballpark that offer an idea of how it will look.
The work sheet includes an analysis by the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department and TKDA, a St. Paul architectural and engineering firm, that located more than 7,500 parking spaces in Lowertown near the ballpark site. That figure doesn’t include contract spaces or potential additional parking east of the ballpark or to the south at Union Depot.
A number of Lowertown residents and business owners disagree with that analysis, saying the ballpark will put more pressure on already limited parking in the area and result in the devaluation of their homes and property.
“We look at the ballpark issue and lack of parking as being the most severe economic crisis that this building has gone through in the last 60 years. We’re simply going to lose our tenants,” said Tom Erickson, who owns, lives and works at the Allen Building in Lowertown.
Logan Gerken, Ryan Companies’ lead architect on the ballpark project, said that city officials are working hard to separate the reality from the perception when it comes to parking.
“The city is taking the public’s concerns very seriously and taking a hard look at parking concerns,” he said.
Officials said that the work sheet satisfactorily addresses several questions related to the $54 million ballpark’s impact on the Lowertown area in such areas as traffic, water quality, vehicle emissions and noise. Those answers make a more substantial environmental impact statement unnecessary, they said; the ballpark project is not big enough to automatically require a so-called EIS.
Mayor Chris Coleman, in a statement, called completion of the work sheet “an important step forward.”
“Environmental cleanup work is currently underway at the site, and demolition work will begin once the site is fully cleaned,” Coleman said.
Gerken said he was confident that another issue, the potential effect of ballpark lighting on St. Paul downtown airport just across the Mississippi River, will be resolved.
Ninety-foot light standards would come close to intruding in the airport’s glide paths, but the current generation of lighting does a better job than before of controlling direction and glare, he said.
Gerken said that the ballpark renderings released Tuesday are conceptual drawings that portray a number of design decisions already made, such as where entrances will be placed, how the ballpark will be oriented and its height.
The final design probably won’t be ready until early fall, he said. Construction is expected to start in December.
Workers began last week to remove hazardous materials from the Gillette/Diamond Products building, where the ballpark will be built. Demolition of the building is expected to begin in June. The ballpark is being paid for with state, city and private funding.