ST. PAUL-The city council approved a deal between the University of St. Thomas and neighboring residents that will allow the school to begin a $100-million campus expansion. A compromise ends a battle between the 119-year-old Catholic university and its affluent neighbors on the city’s most elegant avenue–at least with regards to its expansion plans.

The deal allows St. Thomas to go ahead with plans to add student apartments, a child development center and two large academic buildings south of Summit Avenue. The university agreed to cap enrollment at its St. Paul campus and preserve two more Summit Avenue houses than previously proposed, a concession to neighbors.

St. Thomas also agreed to buy 30 rental houses in the Merriam Park and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods over the next 12 years. The school will renovate the homes and sell them to buyers who promise not to turn the houses into rental properties.

Also as part of the deal, St. Thomas will limit new housing to 475 beds. The neighborhood groups, including the Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association, agreed to drop a lawsuit that sought to delay the expansion and promised not to challenge future city actions on the project.

The university and its neighbors have been at odds over traffic and parking issues. Also, homeowners have complained for years about loud parties and overcrowding at off-campus student rental housing. As St. Thomas grew, some residents worried that the school threatened the character of the city’s historic Summit Avenue.

Construction will begin next month on a child development center at Grand Avenue and Finn Street, and construction on a 75,000-sf business education building on top of a 160-space parking garage begins next summer at Summit and Cleveland avenues. No date has been set for the development of a second 65,000-sf academic building at Summit Avenue and Finn Street.

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