by: Tim Griffin, AIA, Saint Paul Design Center Director
February 12, 2014
The Saint Paul Design Center is a partnership between the City of Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, which is charged with being the steward of the Central Corridor Development Strategy and the 10 Station Area Plans. Starting with Frogtown Square in 2007, 17 projects have been completed or are working their way through the process.
The design review strives to look at a development project as early in the development process as possible to help the development and design team deliver the best interpretation of the community’s vision for an area as stated in the Development Strategy and station area plans. The review is conducted by an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, landscape architects, development managers, artists and planners representing city planning, public works and parks departments and the host district council. The process includes: project identification, an invitation to meet, concept review, city issue identification, community outreach and design workshops (if necessary), site plan review and construction observation.
In practice, we have found that it is critical to begin the conversation early in the process before ideas have hardened and expensive drawings have been prepared. The best design solution is one where the goals and parameters are understood and reflected, the environment is respected, community benefits are evident, dimensions fit, the owners needs are met and there is a spark of delight in the outcome.
A big part of the stewardship is conducting private project design review for development along University Avenue in Saint Paul. Design Review is offered as a service and developers have said that it does provide better clarity and direction from the City. The conversation is always based on the developer understanding and describing how they intend to meet expectations, not telling them what to do.
Driving along University Avenue today, you see the completed Frogtown Square, the almost finished Habitat for Humanity headquarters and Episcopal Homes rising next to Iris Park. Old Home has begun demolition and Hamline Station will begin this spring. All of these have leveraged Design Center services. In addition, we have succeeded in introducing progressive stormwater management into the design process; we have been able to secure wider 14 foot sidewalks in the developments; and we have been sensitive to the impact on surrounding development, particularly along shared alleys.
Central Corridor Design Review Projects:
393 University Avenue
Plymouth Church Foundation
Little Mekong Asian Pacific Cultural Center
Model Cities BROWNstone
Model Cities Central Exchange
Habitat for Humanity