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Still no St. John's plan

Global Mercantile is currently working on plans to convert the old St. John's Hospital (pictured) into an apartment building. Photo by Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia.

The conditional-use permit to redevelop the former St. John's Hospital building is, once again, postponed.

The CUP was first presented to Red Wing's Advisory Planning Commission on March 19. Dan Rogness, the city's community development director, presented the committee with plans that submitted by Global Mercantile & Associates.

The original plans included transforming the hospital into an apartment building with 94 units. Units would vary from studios to those with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. A mix of affordable housing is also proposed for the project.

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The proposal included a three-story parking garage on the south end of the property.

When Rogness was done presenting the CUP to the Planning Commission, Pablo Murillo, the founder of Global Mercantile, spoke. He presented his edited plans to the commission. City staff had not yet seen the changes.

Murillo proposed three possible edits to parking for future tenants. The first parking possibility would be moving the originally proposed parking garage to the north end of the property. This would give property owners on the block more room. If the garage was built in the originally proposed location it would be about eight feet from a neighbor's property line.

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The second option was creating single-level, covered parking stalls. The final proposal is just a parking lot.

The Planning Commission at the time voted to table the topic until the April 16 meeting to give Global Mercantile time to solidify its proposed plans and deliver the updated plans to city staff for review. The city has not received updated edits.

Minnesota statute requires that an application must be reviewed within 120 days of submission, which is July 3 for the Global Mercantile proposal. Since the updated proposal had not been received in time for the June 18 Planning Commission meeting, the review will take place after the 120 day mark.

A memo mailed by city staff to the St. John's Hospital neighborhood stated:

"The city cannot extend the timeline beyond 120 days, but the applicant can request that in writing; the city is then obligated to review and act on the applicant's zoning request."

Global Mercantile submitted a written request to waive the 120-day requirement and change the deadline for review to August 1.

Currently, the Planning Commission expects to continue a public hearing on this project during its monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 16.

Community comments

Residents voiced worries with the project during the March public hearing.

"I'm concerned about the use of the word 'affordable.' Affordable has different definitions and to me, I'm very concerned that it means low income housing and Red Wing doesn't need anymore low income housing," Kevin Ballman told the commission.

A common concern was property values.

Daryl Duden stated: "My house is not for sale but I went out to Zillow today, just to take a look, and my value of my property went down $6000 since this was announced in the paper in the last three weeks."

Before the topic was tabled, the Planning Commission suggested that a community meeting should be held for those in the neighborhood to voice their opinions and concerns before Murillo presents a revised plan.

Pablo Murillo

In an interview with the Republican Eagle on Friday, Murillo stated that his current plan is to get the project's draft information to the city and neighborhood within the next two weeks.

"Delays were necessary for the complexity of the project," he said.

Global Mercantile is working to finalize plans that include using part of the standing building for parking, creating a park on the property and designing facades to make the building look less like a hospital.

In response to concerns raised by residents in the public hearing, Murillo stated that the organization will ensure background checks and vetting of potential residents.

"We are going to treat people fairly," Murillo said.

The finalized draft for the building has not been completed; however, Murillo said he predicts the project will be completed in phases — that way around 100 units wont go up for rent at the same time.