Gaining Momentum: Greening the Green Line

July 15, 2015

By Jenna Fletcher, The Trust for Public Land

 

Momentum for green space is building along the Green Line LRT corridor. While the ParkScore® 2015 ranking placed Minneapolis & St. Paul’s park systems as tied for #1 nationally, the Greening the Green Line Guidebook demonstrates that the Green Line corridor is “park-poor.” Fortunately, momentum is building towards the vision of a greener light-rail corridor.

The Greening the Green Line Guidebook evaluated metrics that demonstrate that a parkland deficiency exists along the Green Line.  These metrics will be used in the future to quantitatively demonstrate change.  In the meantime, we are seeing signs of progress, led by many partners and developers who see the value and need for publicly accessible green and open spaces:

  • The City of St. Paul demonstrated support for public parks along the Green Line corridor as part of its 8-80 Vitality Initiative.  Partial funding is intended for development of the currently undiscovered Dickerman Park.  Also, the City has set aside 8-80 Vitality funds to invest in a new public park near Lexington and University.
  • A creative developer – First & First – is conducting a complete renovation at the old King Koil mattress factory at 550 Vandalia Street, which will include a privately owned public space (POPS) to create an engaging place.
  • The City of Minneapolis adopted their first ever Parkland Dedication Ordinance in 2014, which will generate funding for new and improved parks where development is occurring.  
  • Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) has provided leadership for the development of Little Mekong Plaza (near Western & University), a central gathering place which will function as a POPS. 
  • A public/private partnership in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood was formed to spur district-scale development in the area northeast of the Prospect Park LRT station. The partnership envisions an urban signature park that also manages a proposed district-wide stormwater system vital to the development climate.
  • Indicating an evolving flexibility in providing public space, the City of Minneapolis recently instituted a program to encourage “parklets” – an innovative and cost effective way to add gathering spaces. 
  • Ellen Stewart, a landscape architect in the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department, was recently selected to a new, part-time position as the Open Space Planner.  Working in collaboration with Saint Paul’s Transit-Oriented Development Manager, the Department of Planning and Economic Development and the city’s inspections and safety office, Stewart will increase and enhance green spaces along the Green Line, especially the development of more POPS. 

The Greening the Green Line work has led to a more nuanced understanding of who lives, works and plays along the corridor, which stimulates fresh approaches to meeting their park and open space needs.  While the transformation towards a greener corridor will take time, the momentum and progress is exciting.