Oakdale reveals strategy for allowing AmericInn conversion to senior housing

AmericInn Lodge and Suites is located at 6630 Hudson Blvd. in Oakdale. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Vote to be held at Feb. 25 meeting

After voicing some concerns at a previous meeting, Oakdale City Council members seem to be on board with a new strategy for allowing a St. Paul business owner to move forward with plans to convert an existing hotel to senior housing.

Bao Vang, a prominent member of St. Paul’s Hmong community and president of Peaceful Living, Inc., hopes to soon seal a purchase agreement with the owner of the 54-room AmericInn hotel at 6630 Hudson Blvd., just north of Interstate 94 and east of Tanners Lake, in order to transform it into a 57-bed assisted living facility.

Peaceful Living, Inc., currently operates a 10-bed senior care center in St. Paul licensed through Ramsey County.

A consultant on the project originally brought a proposal to re-guide and rezone the property from commercial use to high-density residential before the city council in January.

At the time, council members were hesitant to change the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances, and chose to table the vote until further methods for allowing the project could be discussed.

At a council workshop Feb. 11, community development director Bob Streetar detailed a plan that would allow the conversion to move forward, but protects the city in the event that the purchase agreement falls through.

Streetar explained a strategy in which the land would remain designated in the city’s comprehensive plan for commercial use, but rezones the parcel for limited business (LB) use.

“Limited business zoning is just a less intense form of commercial zoning,” Streetar explained in a later interview.

At the workshop, council members voiced some frustration over not being able to see a site plan or exact plans for how the facility will be modified. Because the facility is being converted instead of being built from the ground up, a site plan is not needed or required for approval.

“We’re not sure what kind of investment they’ll make in the property,” Kent Dotas said at the workshop, noting that he hoped the building would meet or exceed current city standards.

Following a suggestion originally mentioned by council member Stan Karwoski, the plan was modified slightly to allow the parcel to be used as a senior housing facility under a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).

“[Granting a CUP] seems like a safe move,” Karwoski said at the workshop. “This is a unique refurbishing and we’re not sure how it’s going to work out.”

Council members Lori Pulkrabek and Kent Dotas also voiced their support of allowing the conversion to senior housing as a conditional use.

With a CUP, Streetar later explained, if the purchase agreement falls through, the building can still operate as a hotel.

“It’s not uncommon for councils to want to have some say in the development,” he said. “This council in particular just wants as much quality as they can get.”

Most of AmericInn’s employees were unaware of the owner’s plans to sell at the time plans first came before council, according to a staff member. While the hotel is currently still open for business, it is unclear for how much longer. The Review could not reach a representative from the hotel for comment.

The council is expected to vote on the issue at the Feb. 25 meeting, held at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1584 Hadley Ave.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

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