Not long ago, Selby-Dale, in the Summit-University neighborhood, was one of St Paul's most notorious intersections, host to multiple porn shops and accompanying crime. Today it is in the process of being gentrified into one of St Paul's most peaceful, if colorful, residential areas. A rainbow of dark green, deep blue and yellow houses mixed in with brownstone apartments surround the Selby-Dale comes, many restored to the glory of their golden days by the artists and hip young professionals who moved here in the 1990s.
Much like Summit Hill to the south, the Summit-University neighborhood contains many of the city's oldest buildings, including stone row houses, fortress-like Victorian wood frames, and, along Selby Avenue, many elegant 19th-century brick storefronts. The neighborhood survived being decimated in the 1950s when planners changed plans to route 1-94 directly down one of its streets: and it survived the tumult of the 1960s when a bomb blew up the Selby-Dale police station and broke all the windows in the neighborhood.
Selby-Dale (the roads) create a clear-cut crossroad through the neighborhood. Selby, a main thoroughfare, has been lined with businesses and apartments since the 1880s. Dale acts as the dividing line between grand houses on the east in the area known as Cathedral Hill, and modest homes on the west that were built primarily in the 1960s. The streets near the cathedral are the place for young city hipsters who can find huge apartments with "character" (sometimes even fireplaces) at rents that are lower than in Uptown.
If you're in the market to buy, Selby-Dale is a great place to find a fixer-upper; especially if you like two-story frame houses with front porches and picture windows. Houses range from 700 square feet near Selby and Dale, to around 4,000 square feet in the blocks adjacent to Summit. Thanks to urban renewal, some houses now sit on a lot-and-a-half, with owners having purchased land when next-door derelict houses were tom down. Still, lots are small in proportion to the houses, and it's hard to garden because there's so much shade. Pocket gardens and boulevard gardens are popular, and they have the additional advantage of bringing people out onto the streets where they can keep an eye on what's going on.
Like the other neighborhoods surrounding Summit, shopping on Grand Avenue is within easy walking range, but some of the best local dining is to be found right on Cathedral Hill. Sweeney's at Dale and Ashland, has an old Irish pub atmosphere, and The Vintage serves excellent food accompanied by even better wine. The Mississippi Market natural food coop, at the comer of Selby and Dale offers a fine selection of food in its deli.
The lack of a large open space in the area may be problematic for some. While people walk, run and bike the city streets and the Twin Cities Marathon comes right down Summit there is no place to play ball; in fact, the closest open area is along the Mississippi River. However, there are playgrounds every few blocks, and an unofficial off-leash dog area at Webster Park.
Prospective residents will want to be aware of the concentration of lower income housing in a section of Summit University, north of Selby. Numerous community initiatives and revitalization projects have been accomplished or are in the works. The area is now home to the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, which provides daycare services and other activities, and the well-known Penumbra Theater, 270 Kent Street, 651- 224-3180, which features plays with African-American themes. From the mansions of Summit Avenue to the business district along University Avenue, and from the historic neighborhood of Ramsey Hill/Cathedral Hill to the blocks of middle-class homes to the west, Summit-University is a diverse district. If you're accustomed to the usual security precautions that are necessarily in an urban area, you may want to consider Summit-U. Web Sites: www.ci.stpaul.mn.us, www.tcfreenet.org
Area Code: 651
Zip Codes: 55102, 55103, 55104
Post Office: Industrial Station, 1430 Concordia Avenue (all post office branches can be reached at 800-275-8777).
Police: Western District Patrol Team North, 651-292-3512; South, 651-292-3549
Emergency Hospital: United Hospital, 333 Smith Avenue North, 651-220-8000
library: Lexington Branch, 1080 University Avenue West, 651-642- 0359
Community Resources: Summit-University Planning Council, 627 Selby Avenue, 651-228-1855; Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, 270 Kent Street, 651-224-4601
Community Publications: St. Paul Grand Gazette, 651-699-1462; St. Paul Pioneer Press, 651-222-5011, www.pioneerplanet.com
Transportation: Bus Lines: 3: Grand Avenue/Downtown/3M Center; 16: Downtown Minneapolis/University Avenue/Downtown St. Paul; 17: Dale Street/Rosedale; 21: Downtown/Selby Avenue/Lake Street (Minneapolis); 22: St. Anthony Avenue/Downtown/Regions Hospital
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