Council approves funding for streetscape projects

The St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to use $1.38 million from its 8-80 Vitality Fund for four projects to improve streets and public spaces. The allocations:

• $525,000 to rebuild sidewalks and boulevards along Snelling Avenue, part of the state’s $10 million makeover of Snelling between Selby Avenue and the Pierce Butler Route.

• $450,000 for a consultant to study and recommend a route for the downtown bike loop approved by the council last month. So far, only one leg of the 1.7-mile loop has been determined, along Jackson Street from Shepard Road to 11th Street.

• $300,000 to begin construction of Little Mekong Plaza, along the Green Line on University Avenue, by razing a building there. The final cost for the plaza is expected to be $2.6 million.

• $100,000 to begin planning a publicly accessible “River Balcony” along the downtown bluff from the Science Museum to the Union Depot.

The 8-80 Vitality Fund, proposed by Mayor Chris Coleman and approved as part of the 2015 budget by the council, sets aside $42.5 million for recreation and entertainment amenities.




Sweet Pea’s bartender killed in overnight crash

A supervisor and bartender at Sweet Pea’s Public House at 472 Snelling Av. S. was killed early Saturday when his car left the road and hit a tree near Dale Street and Sherburne Avenue.

Justin DeChantal, 24, a native of Brainerd, was taken to Regions Hospital after the 2:38 a.m. crash, where he was pronounced dead, St. Paul police said.

A Sweet Pea’s co-worker, Will Harschman, said DeChantal “was the most fun-spirited person you would ever meet. He cared about his relationships with friends and his customers.”

Police said speed was a likely factor in the crash, which is being investigated.




Flashing yellow arrow gets MnDOT thumbs-up

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has decided to activate a flashing yellow arrow at the intersection of Hwy. 7 and 5th Avenue/Oak Ridge Drive in Hopkins. The light will allow motorists to make left turns off Hwy. 7 without having to sit through an entire light cycle when no traffic is present.

The intersection, just west of Hwy. 169, was equipped with a flashing yellow arrow and signs telling motorists one was there. But it had not been turned on.

MnDOT has been installing the flashing arrows at intersections across the state when new signals systems are installed. However, just because an intersection is outfitted doesn’t mean it will be used, said Jerry Kotzenmacher, a MnDOT traffic systems specialist.

“Speed and volumes are likely conditions that limit the use of the flashing yellow arrow at the signal in Hopkins,” he said. After taking those factors into account, MnDOT determined that signals at Hwy. 7 and 5th Avenue/Oak Ridge Drive can flash yellow during late-morning, late-evening and overnight hours, said Kevin Schwartz, a MnDOT signal engineer.



Dakota County

Another 122 senior housing units planned

Dakota County’s Community Development Agency (CDA) plans to add another 122 senior housing units to its stock. The agency has built, or is in the process of constructing, 1,609 units of such housing.

The agency expects to start construction of Cambrian Commons in Rosemount this summer. It will include 60 units of senior housing on South Robert Trail. In Lakeville, a 62-unit complex called Argonne Hills will be built along Junelle Path.

The developments will provide affordable housing for low- and moderate-income seniors, according to county documents.

County commissioners will vote Tuesday on whether to issue bonds to finance the projects. CDA staff members have recommended issuing housing development bonds of approximately $23 million.

Jessie Van Berkel