By Reg Chapman

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Can one St. Paul skyway close several hours earlier than the other skyways? That’s what the St. Paul City Council has been considering Wednesday afternoon.

The skyway they’re talking about is over sixth street in Lowertown. The owners of the railroad exchange building say they’ve had enough of the homeless using the skyway that runs through their building as a bathroom and a place to hang out. They’re hoping the city of St. Paul will allow them to lock down access to that skyway at 8 p.m.

A group of residents don’t want that to happen — residents who happen to be in wheelchairs. They say that locking down the building restricts their access and violates their rights. Rick Cardenas says he can’t get to his favorite restaurant if the skyway is closed.

But attorney Chuck Repke says his clients are not responsible for providing access to a restaurant that was built after his clients purchased the building and skyway easement. Repke says his clients want the same consideration that government buildings get — they’re allowed to lock down their buildings earlier than the city’s 2 a.m. requirement.

“It’s a fairness argument. Five places are closed in St. Paul, all who are in the exact same situation as us. The end of the skyway ought to be able to close when no one wants to go past it,” Repke said. “They’ve done it five times, they just do it only for government buildings. They’ve done it for Metro Square, the Children’s Museum, federal courts buildings, the Sibley Building, City Hall and courthouse. Those places get to be closed, we don’t.

The issue is far from over. The St. Paul City Council voted to continue Wednesday’s public hearing, which lasted five minutes for each side. The hearing will continue on June 21.

After that, residents of Mears Park and some of the building owners will be meeting on June 26 and 28, where they hope to strike a deal and come up with a partnership. They’re hoping to poll residents and business owners to find the best solution.


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