The Selling of Patel's Motel

Just when St. Paul's City Council thought they could put the battle to bed, the Travel Inn's owner comes up with his own solution

The nearest neighborhood to the Travel Inn is Capitol Heights, sitting at the crest of the hill above the motel. Prosper Egan, co-captain of the area's block club, says that for the seven years she's lived in the neighborhood, the motel has been a constant problem. Simply switching owners is, to her mind, no solution. "I think that another motel is not really going to work there," she says, "The same types of people are going to gravitate towards that area. We don't want to see the people living there thrown out on the street, but that is a nuisance property and needs to be removed. It's a flophouse motel."

There have been other designs on the property of late. The state's Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board weighed in on the issue in July, concluding that there is a "higher and better use than what currently exists" on the Travel Inn site. Specifically, they're working on rezoning the area for governmental/institutional use. But according to the board's senior planner, Paul Mandell, the current use as a motel is grandfathered in, and that standing would not necessarily lapse even if it ceased to operate.

Regions Hospital, which sits kitty-corner from the motel and owns much of the surrounding land, has been unsuccessfully trying to buy the property for a decade. Patel's attorney Stephen Kelly says that Regions' last offer of $450,000 came in well below the independent appraisal of $1.12 million for the property. Both sides acknowledge there are no negotiations in play.

Death by red tape: Embattled proprietor Jay Patel says he's had enough
Craig Lassig
Death by red tape: Embattled proprietor Jay Patel says he's had enough

For now, the only deal in the works will bring a new motel license applicant in front of the City Council. Whether or not the council approves Patel's license at today's meeting, his attorney says Patel plans to go ahead with the proposed sale. Council member Jerry Blakey, who represents the ward in which the Travel Inn sits and has opposed Patel's license, says he would have concerns about the property continuing as a motel. "We're not talking months that this has been a problem. We're talking years." With that in mind, he says the next applicant for a new license would likely have strict conditions placed upon them: "The license would have to be so tight that if they sneezed we would close it down."

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