by:Jenna Fletcher, The Trust for Public Land
November 14, 2012
When the Green Line opens in 2014, Frogtown Park and Farm will be well underway. Located at the heart of Central Corridor, just 5 short blocks north of University Avenue and within walking distance of both the Victoria and Lexington stations, the new park will be an asset to be enjoyed by residents from across the city. Investing in the park now will build on the investments in transit and development all along the corridor by making the area more livable, healthier, and adding common space for all to enjoy.
The site in the Historic Frogtown Neighborhood of St. Paul has been host to institutions serving the community for well over 100 years. Originally it was the home of the Sisters of Good Shepherd convent, which opened here in 1884. Most recently it was the location of the Wilder Foundation’s administrative offices and some direct services, which occupied the site until they moved in 2009. At that time, a prime piece of local real estate, 12.7 acres in the center of a fully developed neighborhood, was suddenly available for a totally new life. A piece of land that has been home to such a legacy of community-serving institutions deserves an equally strong vision for the future.
Fortunately, the community already had a partner in the Wilder Foundation, who still owns the site and operates some services on adjacent land. Wilder decided that when they sold the land, they would consider both the price offered and the potential benefit to the community that had been its home for decades.
Today, the land is on its way towards becoming Frogtown Park and Farm: a combined urban demonstration farm, neighborhood park, and nature sanctuary. With the urging of neighborhood residents and a local nonprofit, Frogtown Gardens, as well as support from The Trust for Public Land, and the City of St. Paul, the dream of creating a special community amenity and public gathering space is taking shape.
While urban agriculture is growing around the region and the country, the farm portion of Frogtown Park and Farm is distinctive because it will truly be a farm, not a collection of garden plots for individual households to reserve for use. Local residents will be able to work and learn from others at the farm and take the lessons they learn back to their homes and yards, spreading it across the community. The six acres of farmland will be used as a demonstration site and classroom for schools, children, neighbors and anyone from the Twin Cities who is looking to learn about different types of farming traditions. The Frogtown Gardens group will lease the land from the city to operate the farm alongside a new City of St. Paul park on the site. A small portion of the space will also be restored to natural landscape, creating a nature sanctuary near the heart of the city.
The park portion of the site creates space for active and passive recreation in the Historic Frogtown area along the corridor that currently has the least green space in the city. With room for playing fields, open space, playgrounds or other amenities to be determined by the community, the site is sure to be a defining feature of the neighborhood for generations. And of course, the sledding hill on the spot will continue to be a popular feature. The entire project, park and farm, is certain to be a big draw, being less than a ten-minute walk for 7,000 children that live in this section of the Green Line corridor and thousands more along the light rail corridor.
Without the Wilder Foundation’s generosity in offering the land for sale at a deeply discounted price, this community project would not be in the process of becoming a reality. In addition, the City of St. Paul has made support for Frogtown Park and Farm a priority, identifying both the special nature of the farm and the neighborhood’s need for additional urban open space as ways that it benefits the community and city. Thanks to support like this and the addition of the Green Line through the Historic Frogtown District, people around the region will soon be able to visit a special green urban space near the core of the cities.
As said by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, “This is a tremendous opportunity to provide healthy foods in sustainable ways in a neighborhood desperate for green space.”
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