St. Paul City Council Votes to Demolish Former St. Thomas Dormitory
St. Paul City Council voted last week in a 6-1 decision to allow the University of St. Thomas to demolish Loras Hall, a former seminary dormitory on Summit Avenue. The City Council decision results from an appeal by St. Thomas from the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission decision not to demolish the building. Loras Hall will be replaced by a new academic building for the university.
The Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny the demolition because the building was eligible to become a historic structure. Loras Hall was built in the 1890s, designed by well-known St. Paul architect Cass Gilbert and railroad magnate James J. Hill. The Heritage Preservation Commission noted that St. Thomas had failed to show the necessity of building a new academic building in the exact spot Loras Hall stands, especially when the university had other possible locations.
However, St. Paul’s City Council came to a different conclusion. The Council noted that the building was found to be historically significant in 2017 but never nominated to be worthy of a historic designation. Further, the Council found that it would be difficult to repurpose a building of that age. The Council’s single dissenter based her decision on the preservation of the City’s history and architecture.
The decision to demolish the historic dormitory was supported by the Union Park District Council and the Mac-Groveland Community Council as well. The University of St. Thomas plans to tear down the historic building by next year and replace the dormitory with a $100 million complex dedicated to science, technology, engineering, arts and math by 2024.