The city of St. Paul is paying $800,000 to downtown condo owners whose parking spaces were taken by the city two years ago to make room for the new Saints ballpark in the Lowertown neighborhood.
But the settlement between the city and Market House Condominium Association comes without convenient parking alternatives for residents, some of whom already have fled for greener pastures.
"I left because of the actions taken by the city, and now live in Minneapolis," said Chris Mullen, who has rented out his Market House condo since Labor Day. "It certainly became less convenient, but it was also a matter of principle to me. The city was very adversarial throughout this entire process."
The settlement ends two years of wrangling that began when St. Paul condemned a gated lot across the street from Market House, where 35 owners had long-term parking leases attached to their units.
The lot was closed in August 2013 as the site was cleared for the ballpark.
The city appraised the value of the lot at $425,000 and forwarded that sum to Market House. But in November a court-appointed panel of commissioners decided that compensatory damages amounted to $655,000.
Market House appealed that judgment, seeking an award of $1.09 million. The city's cross-appeal claimed that damages should not exceed $430,000.
By late last month both sides had agreed to $800,000 in damages, and the settlement was signed Feb. 10. The city must pay Market House an additional $375,000 on top of the previous $425,000.
"The settlement made sense for the city," interim City Attorney Laura Pietan said.
The Market House board had hoped for new parking as part of a settlement. But neither the city nor the condo association could find property to buy, leaving condo owners to make their own arrangements.
Ron Nelson, president of the condo association, parks at the farmers market during the week and moves to the Union Depot lot on weekends.
For many residents, Nelson said, losing their parking space has resulted in "a great deal of pain and suffering."
They don't believe the settlement is enough to cover equity they've lost in their condos as a result of the loss of parking, although they hope that such Lowertown amenities as the ballpark and light rail drive up property values.
Moreover, much of the settlement will be chewed up by legal fees and a $315,000 elevator update recently mandated by the state.
But the condo board was convinced the city would take the case to court, said Mullen, who participated in the negotiations. "It was going to be a lengthy process, and we felt this was kind of the best option for us," he said.
"Not only would it go on indefinitely," Nelson said, "but any marginal increase in compensation would only go to the lawyers."