Prospect Park 2020 project results in a well-received plan and business expansion

By: Dick Poppele, PPERRIA President
February 23, 2012

The Prospect Park 2020 project began with a neighborhood vision for redevelopment and has now produced a pre-development plan validated by market research with the support of community residents and businesses. The project has proactively shaped the vision, expectations, and implementation strategy for the station area.

The purpose of the project was to craft a pre-development Framework for the Prospect Park station area and the University Avenue gateway in anticipation of the Central Corridor light rail line. Businesses, landowners and the community, as well as interested partners and investors, all played an active role in shaping the project.

The Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association (PPERRIA) proposed a two-track planning process which would address immediate market opportunities while simultaneously developing a long-term growth framework.

  • Track 1: A six month effort to develop a comprehensive Station Area/University Avenue pre-development framework describing the public realm and connectivity, as well as the mix and intensity of residential, commercial and institutional uses.
  • Track 2: An immediate 60-90 day exploration of development scenarios targeting a specific property and existing business with a pressing need for space and need to determine its opportunity for expansion on the avenue. The Textile Center was an ideal candidate.

Outreach was a priority

Community outreach and community acceptance are critical to successful future development. To ensure that all the deliberations of the Project Steering Committee are widely understood, we have set up a Prospect Park 2020 website with minutes, proceedings, plans, and other material related to the project.

Residential community outreach began with the neighborhood organization, PPERRIA, and its 700+ members. Project details were discussed at monthly PPERRIA meetings, and a half-day workshop in August allowed for public feedback and comment. The workshop featured a scale model of the project area that invited attendees to explore proposals with movable objects on the model board. An Open House followed in December that featured all the findings and recommendations from the project along with displays of maps, development objectives, market analyses and the scale model. Some 14 hands-on house parties reached yet more residents.

Other stakeholder communities included in the process were the businesses, landowners and public sector (City, County, University, and Metropolitan Council) represented in the area. The business community is centered along SE University Avenue between the St. Paul border and 27th Avenue SE. The 14 member Steering Committee also include representatives from three businesses.

The Findings

The proposed Framework was built around three essential elements:

  1. A connected public realm framework that will support the quality of life and build value for the adjacent parcels.
  2. Reservoir shared parking that can serve the needs of future retail, commercial and institutional development.
  3. The Textile Center's potential expansion that will become a catalyst attracting other arts-related organizations and businesses while enhancing the “sense of place”.

The market potential for the area derives from the centrality of location in the region and proximity to the University of Minnesota, the University Hospital and Medical Center, and the proposed University Research Park. Market research indicates this area could absorb development totaling about $438 million including nearly 2000 mixed use residential units and over 600,000 square feet of commercial/cultural development.

Results to Date

The vision, research and framework from this project have now resulted in the sale of a major property adjacent to the Prospect Park station to a developer who is planning a large residential development that conforms to the framework and vision for the area.

The Textile center, a national consortium of fiber-related arts organizations which draws 200,000 visits a year from the entire Metropolitan area, has made a commitment to remain in the area. The Center also plans to expand their facilities to develop an arts center near the Prospect Park station. The goal is to attract other art-related venues – much like the University's Goldstein Gallery – including arts groups and a regional library. This commitment was made in direct response to the effort put forth in this project.

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