Gus Blanchard letter - St. Anthony Park Community Council

____________________________________________ Glen J. Skovholt
1473 Grantham Street
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108
Phone: 651-645-5334
651-644-7828 (fax)
E mail: [email protected]
October 8, 2015
Mr. Gus Blanchard, Chair
Luther Seminary Board of Directors
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108
Dear Mr. Blanchard,
I am writing you as a long time neighbor of Luther Seminary, having lived for 48 years just a
few houses down the alley from the Seminary president’s home. I am also a lifetime member of
Saint Anthony Park Lutheran Church, having been baptized in Bøckman Hall when our
congregation worshiped in the Seminary’s chapel.
I have an interest in seeing that Saint Anthony Park has sufficient housing so that seniors living
in the community can remain here when they find it necessary to move out of their home. It is
for that reason that I chaired the board of the Luther Place Housing Corporation that
constructed the Luther Place condominiums.
I also met with Michael Morrow earlier this year to suggest that the Seminary work with
Ecumen to provide housing for seniors at the open space near Como and Eustis. It seemed to
be a perfect location, with Health Partners across the street, a Lutheran Social Service center
on Eustis and one of the best bus lines in the Twin Cities running on Como.
So I was delighted when I learned of the possibility of the Seminary partnering with Ecumen on
a project of this nature.
But I was dumbstruck when I also learned of the possibility that Ecumen might build a sixty
unit senior cooperative along Luther Place. I cannot believe that the Seminary would sell land
with so many mature oak trees, which would be destroyed to construct such a large building. It
is the last thing one should be doing if truly concerned about the environment.
The Seminary should be as concerned as the community with the design of the building. But
when listening to, and hearing from the Seminary, I sense the Seminary believes that should
be the concern of Ecumen and not the Seminary. That is not the sign of a socially responsible
I have some experience in this field having been Honeywell’s vice president for government
and community affairs at a time when Honeywell was recognized as a leading corporate citizen
in the Twin Cities. In my opinion, Luther Seminary’s passive role in hearing the concerns of
the community on the Luther Place project is not impressive.
I also know something about the governance of a church-sponsored academic institution,
having served for 12 years as a member of the Augsburg College Board of Regents.
Finally, I have a great concern with the status of the proposed new parking lot and its effect on
Saint Anthony Park Lutheran Church - a congregation originally established by the Seminary.
At the time our congregation was considering building the Luther Place condominiums, we
were assured by the Seminary that we were welcome to use the parking spaces off Luther Place.
Otherwise we might have built a parking lot instead of the condominiums (which I believe
would have been a loss to the neighborhood). We were, and are, grateful that the Seminary
made this space available to us.
But, Mr. Blanchard, take a look at the proposed parking area under the proposed plan from the
perspective of our congregation. The parking area will be invisible to most visitors to our
church who need to find parking. And even if they do find it, will they realize that they are
welcome to park in it? And how will they get to the church?
I was encouraged when Michael Morrow said, in a recent email, “I understand . . . that the
church doesn't believe the current proposal meets its needs. Both the Seminary and Ecumen
want the parking to meet the needs of the church.”
Time will tell whether it does. I hope the Seminary board makes clear that the Seminary will
honor that commitment.
I can say with some certainty that the Seminary has lost credibility and trust with many
residents of St. Anthony Park (which goes well beyond members of our congregation) over its
passive role in the design of the project and its impact on the community.
Glen J. Skovholt
Cc: Dr. Robin Steinke
Michael Morrow
St. Anthony Park Community Council Land Use Committee