A former convent on St. Paul’s East Side will become a crisis residence for people with mental illness, after the City Council voted 5 to 2 Wednesday to rezone the property.
Council Members Dan Bostrom and William Finney voted against the change, saying the proposed use for the property at 1784 Lacrosse Av. has raised neighborhood concerns about parking in the area.
Officials with People Inc., which will run the 16-bed facility, plan to provide three off-street parking spaces, mainly to accommodate staffers. Most of the residents will stay no more than 10 days and leave their own cars at home, officials have said.
The residence will move from the Hamline-Midway neighborhood to the former home of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, just off White Bear Avenue. The facility needs more room for programming and a commercial kitchen, officials said.
A City Council vote had been scheduled for Aug. 26, but that was delayed after concerns were raised about parking.
“I’d like to say I was really satisfied with how the process worked — but I can’t,” said Bostrom, who represents the neighborhood. “Does the zoning code mean anything?”
But others on the council said the Greater East Side neighborhood, which already has a mix of uses, can absorb whatever increased traffic is caused by the Diane Ahrens Crisis Residence.
The Ahrens Residence has the support of Mayor Chris Coleman, and the city’s planning commission had recommended approval of the zoning change from single-family residential to townhouse residential.
Council Members Dai Thao and Dave Thune said it was important for St. Paul to address the needs of people diagnosed with mental illness in the community, who don’t often have powerful advocates fighting for them.
Thune talked about the small streamers that flutter from the railings of the High Bridge in his ward, streamers that were attached after a girl recently jumped off the bridge to her death. Mental illness is complex, he said, and the services provided by the residence are needed.
The change also had the support of Ramsey County Board Chair Jim McDonough, who lobbied council members to approve the change.