Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis came a cropper in seeking $12 million this legislative session for its planned new Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul, part of which already is under construction.

However, the private-public partners behind the $100 million, two-phase housing, training and social services complex still expect to demolish the current antiquated homeless shelter next year and complete the new facilities by 2018. That would be the Twin Cities’ single-largest campaign against homelessness.

Gov. Mark Dayton earmarked about $12 million in general obligation bonds for the second phase of the project in his $1 billion capital budget. However, the divided Legislature failed to pass that and other transportation and public-infrastructure projects, even though Democrats and Republicans agree on a number of the individual projects around the state.

The governor last week opened the door to negotiations on a bonding bill in a possible special session, and discussions were ongoing at week’s end on what might be considered in a bill.

“If there is a bonding bill, there’s a good chance that Dorothy Day will be in it,” said an optimistic John Knapp, a Catholic Charities board member, veteran lawyer and business lobbyist.

More than 75 percent of the private fundraising goal of $40 million has been secured, led by a $5 million gift from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation. That is the foundation of Best Buy founder, Dick Schulze, a St. Paul kid who started the business in the 1960s. It also is the largest gift ever received by Catholic Charities.

Knapp, of the Winthrop & Weinstine law firm, hopes to complete the $40 million private-donation effort by December.

Knapp said the new center will be a model of efficient social service delivery, working with local government agencies, nonprofits and hospitals. It will provide more-dignified shelter than the current mats, as well as permanent housing and the support and training that will lead many to self-sufficient lives. Catholic Charities will manage and operate the center.

About 400 businesspeople and others attended a recent community breakfast to learn that $31.2 million has been raised toward the $40 million private campaign. It won’t hurt chances at the Legislature next year if the private goal is exceeded.

In addition to the Schulze Foundation gift, more than $7.6 million has been raised from businesses and individuals, including the Hardenbergh Foundation, Premier Banks, Land O’Lakes, Sit Investment Associates and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Fifteen business executives lead the campaign, including co-chairs Doug Baker Jr., Mary Brainerd and Andy Cecere. In addition to the private funding, the state, Ramsey County, St. Paul and other agencies have committed more than $25 million.

Phase One, under construction next to the current Dorothy Day Center, is called Higher Ground St. Paul, a five-story building designed to provide emergency shelter and 193 units of permanent housing. It will open later this year.

The second phase, Opportunity Center and Housing, located across the street and near the Xcel Energy Center, will be a six-story, one-stop location connecting needy people with critical services such as health care and veterans services. It will include 171 units of permanent housing.

Catholic Charities hopes to complete all construction by 2018.

In 2011, for the first time, Catholic Charities was forced to turn away people from Dorothy Day, leading to nearby encampments. That prompted St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to convene a stakeholder task force that led to the new private-public plan to prevent homelessness.

The temple stands unfinished until all are housed in dignity.


Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at