City looks to buy and demolish Payne Ave. ‘eyesore’

The former auto shop at 845 Payne Ave. will likely be demolished by the city this summer. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

For the 20-plus years Dan Bayers has been with the St. Paul Planning and Economic Development Department, the little auto shop at 845 Payne Ave. hasn’t seen much action.

As far as he knows it’s mainly been used for storage, and has been somewhat of an ugly relic.

The rundown building next to a vacant lot, sits within sight of some Payne Avenue prosperity: Kendall’s Ace Hardware, the senior housing development at Payne Avenue and Phalen Boulevard, and the popular Ward 6 restaurant.

So it may come as a bit of good news to some that the city will be purchasing the small building and demolishing it.

The city will also be buying the vacant lot next door, combining the two spots into one developable parcel.

“These properties have always been on the neighborhood’s radar to either be redeveloped or renovated,” Bayers said.

The Twin Cities Community Land Bank bought both properties from the long-time owners, Gerald and Nancy Holt, back in December for a total of $50,000. The two lots are now being sold to the city for $50,500.

St. Paul intends to demolish the building, spending an estimated $50,000 on the knockdown.

Once it’s down, the city will have to do soil testing, and possibly contamination cleanup -- since the building was used both as a gas station and auto repair shop, there’s a high likelihood there will be ground pollution.

If that’s indeed the case, the city will seek external funding to help with the cleanup.

Part of the big picture

The city is buying the properties as part of a larger effort to shore up developments along Payne Avenue.

With new buildings such as Kendall’s in place, and a bike path and a parking lot on the way, the plots are seen as one more piece of the Payne Avenue puzzle.

According to a Housing and Redevelopment report on the property, city staff are “recommending the purchase of this site to ensure this eyesore does not negatively impact the investments the HRA and local businesses have made to date, nor hinder the significant momentum Payne Avenue is currently enjoying.”

John Vaughn, director of the East Side Neighborhood Development Company, said the soon-to-be blank site could be promising.

“There’s a lot of redevelopment potential on that site, although (the parcel) is pretty small,” he said.

He noted that it might be a good opportunity for the neighborhood to step up to ensure the right development comes along.

“The community should get ahead of it so we can be intentional about it,” he said.

With the completion of the Cayuga interchange of Interstate 35E, which will open up additional freeway access to the East Side, he predicted the area of Payne Avenue will be highly trafficked.

The HRA also owns a large vacant lot across the street from the abandoned auto shop, at 848 Payne Ave. The city has been marketing the lot to developers, but hasn’t had any bites yet, Bayers said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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