After a yearlong fight between a popular public charter school and a group of its Como Park neighbors, City Council President Amy Brendmoen on Wednesday wanted to make one more attempt at brokering neighborhood peace.
Brendmoen, who represents the area, asked the council to set aside for two weeks its decision on whether to designate the former St. Andrew's Catholic Church as historic, which could save it from being demolished.
"Pressing the pause button," she said of moving the issue to the June 5 council meeting.
Ever since the Twin Cities German Immersion School bought the former church property near Como Lake in 2013, tension between neighbors and the school has been high over playground noise, traffic and parking issues, she said. Over the past year, after neighbors and historic preservationists began urging the building be saved, she said the sides appear to have dug in.
"In the process, they have not engaged each other," she said.
Brendmoen said she will approach both sides to come together, perhaps using alternative dispute resolution, and asked each side to choose three or four people willing to look at the issue "with fresh eyes."
"We think this is a good thing," said Bonnie Youngquist, a member of Save Historic St. Andrew's, a group pushing to save the building. "We've been wanting to find a win-win situation."
Kelly Laudon, a school board member who has four children in the school, said they're willing to try.
"We're happy to engage in conversation," said Laudon. "We would like for the other side to come forward with a proposal."
The school has used the building as a gymnasium, performance space and cafeteria but says the space no longer meets its needs.
The 1927 Romanesque building was designed by Charles Hausler, St. Paul's first city architect. St. Andrew's closed as a church in 2011 and was gutted and remodeled.
Late last year, the city's Heritage Preservation Commission recommended it be given historic designation, while the city Planning Commission voted to allow the school to proceed with demolition.
Now it's the City Council's turn to weigh in — a vote now put off another two weeks. No matter how the council votes, several observers expect the fight that has divided neighbors to continue.
If the council votes to designate the building as historic, Brendmoen said, the school could still demolish the church. It's just that any changes to a historic property, including demolition, would go before the city's Heritage Preservation Commission before a City Council decision.