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Mayor Coleman says Gillette building reuse for Saints ballpark won’t fly

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has reiterated his stand against reusing the old Gillette building in Lowertown as part of the new Saints ballpark.

Art gallery owner Bill Hosko has been pushing the plan to incorporate the building — most recently called the Diamond Products building — into the design, to provide much-needed parking and to broaden the usage of the baseball stadium. Last week, City Council Member Dave Thune expressed interest in the Hosko plan.

But the mayor has moved to squash any thoughts of reopening the design phase. In a letter to Lowertown residents,he said:

“Planning for a ballpark with capacity for thousands of fans with such a limited space makes our ability to maintain any part of the Diamond Products structure nearly impossible, certainly too costly, and compromises basic ballpark ‘best practice’ design fundamentals.”

He said the project’s $54 million budget precludes any drastic changes, and that the perceived parking problem is overblown. He says there is ample parking for Saints fans and neighborhood residents:

I am fully aware that this project will have two significant impacts on parking – one generally for the neighborhood and another specific to the Markethouse condominiums. First, the Lowertown neighborhood will lose parking spots because of the ballpark. Because of this, we’ve asked several experts to examine the impact of the ballpark on Lowertown parking supply.

Every time, studies have shown we have ample existing parking to accommodate the ballpark, residents and visitors to the neighborhood. In fact, a recent study shows as many as 4 times the amount of parking required to accommodate fans. And, of course, the Green Line will begin operation in 2014 bringing thousands of fans to the ballpark via light rail transit. Fundamentally, I remain confident that the assessments of the experts are correct and that the market will respond to any parking needs.

While Hosko and Thune will continue pushing their plan, the timing is getting tight: the building is scheduled for demolition in the next few months.

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