December 9, 2015
By Ellen Stewart, Open Space Planner, City of Saint Paul
As the City of Saint Paul’s Open Space Planner for the Green Line, I advocate for and facilitate the development of high quality open space to serve the Central Corridor. Although the path to increasing open space was not initially as clear as the need, we are making progress!
Iris Park’s proximity to the Fairview Station and Episcopal Homes expansion provided an opportunity to use Livable Community (LCDA) funds for park improvements. In spring 2016, the park will have a more welcoming entrance including a two tiered plaza space, water feature and new walkways into the park..
Nearby 2.4 acre Dickerman Park has never been developed for public use but this past fall, we completed the removal of private parking lots. In 2016, we will advance the conceptual plans through construction documents, and by the end of 2017, you will see the transformation of the western half of the park into a welcoming series of connected walks and plaza spaces.
The City’s partnership with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) has leveraged city dollars to acquire land near Griggs and University – an area with a notable service gap. We will then continue to seek park development funding in partnership with TPL. Expect more information on our 2016 community process to generate input on programming, layout and a name for the park.
It is an achievement to shoehorn new parks into an existing urban fabric, but a bigger hurdle is initiating privately owned publicly accessible spaces (POPS) within new developments along the corridor. Several models exist nationally; and although it is a relatively recent concept to the Twin Cities, new examples will be featured with the completion of Project for Pride in Living’s (PPL) Hamline Station and First & First’s Vandalia Tower and Little Mekong Plaza.
Hmong American Partnership will begin construction of Little Mekong Plaza near Western Station in 2016. The space will accommodate markets, performances and daily use. Using this project to promote the expansion of POPS, I will document barriers and opportunities and shepherd the project through the regulatory process. As part of this work, we will develop FAQs and sample images to illustrate the benefits to developers.
To ensure our investment in rail propels investment in the community, we must encourage attractive development that fits well into the existing fabric and includes open space to match the density. I continue to promote POPS to city staff, the community and developers, in order to maintain momentum toward an end that prioritizes quality of life and sustainability.