COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK
Meetings and Announcements:
Our next Council meeting and work-session will be on Monday, September 11th. The start of the workshop will be determined with the packet next week. We will have the third review of the 2024 budget and Council will be asked to set the preliminary levy for 2024. At the Council meeting staff will present information on the EAB State Grants.
News found in the Pioneer Press
On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. St. Paul and Ramsey County lawmakers are asking state lawmakers for major funding for 26 capital investment projects as lawmakers gear up for the next legislative session. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
By FREDERICK MELO | firstname.lastname@example.org | Pioneer Press
PUBLISHED: August 31, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. | UPDATED: August 31, 2023 at 11:16 p.m.
Standing with his back to an outdoor athletic field comprised of weathered astro-turf, Andy Rodriguez put the most flattering spin he could muster on the dated baseball and softball facility mostly known as the home of the Rice and Arlington batting cages.
City officials admit that, with the exception of a handful of adult softball teams, plenty of St. Paul athletes opt instead to drive to the suburbs to play ball.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, left, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater. talk as they disembark from the Padelford Riverboats’ Anson Northrup excursion boat following a tour of the Mississippi River on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. St. Paul and Ramsey County lawmakers are asking state lawmakers for major funding for 26 capital investment projects as lawmakers gear up for the next legislative session. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
“This is a very well-loved space,” said Rodriguez, a lifelong city parks and rec user recently appointed director of the department, pointing to literal rips in the turf’s faded carpet as he recalled its glory days in the late 1980s and ’90s. “This has sat dormant for a very long time. We’re looking at the longer, bigger picture of how we rebuild this facility in its entirety.”
His vision is to rip out the aged sports facility at 1500 Rice St. and start anew, perhaps combining it with adjoining real estate to create a multi-use athletic complex that could host as many as six sports at a time. A new $30 million sports hub would draw local athletes — Washington Technology Magnet School sits just across the street — as well as regional tournaments, from baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball and track to possibly even pickleball and skateboarding.
The hope is that a multi-court field house and multi-purpose artificial fields will attract teams from across the metro — a far cry from the city’s many popular but outdated rec centers.
It’s a vision that relies heavily on at least one of two major funding sources to come together, if not some combination of both. St. Paul residents on Nov. 7 will go to the polls and vote on increasing the city’s overall sales tax by a percentage point, with the goal of raising nearly $1 billion over 20 years to fund arterial road reconstruction and major parks projects. With a proposed opening in 2028, the city’s regional sports facility would be one of those projects.
The city is also asking state lawmakers to smile on the proposal, to the tune of up to $30 million, which likely would come from a future state bonding bill.
In May, the state Legislature adjourned after approving a record $2.6 billion infrastructure package and state surplus cash investments in dozens of major construction projects. If another bonding bill comes together over the next legislative session, Rodriguez hopes his $30 million ask will be toward the top of the list.
The regional sports facility is no small proposal, and it’s just one of some 19 major bonding requests being assembled by St. Paul, on top of seven from Ramsey County officials, as lawmakers gear up for the next legislative session.
Led by state Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the capital investment committee, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — mostly state senators — toured most of the 26 sites on Tuesday and Wednesday, boarding a coach bus and a Padelford riverboat to examine locations by land and water at a near-breathless pace.
“We definitely didn’t have that many (bonding requests) last year,” said Rodriguez. “I’m not sure what the record is, but 19 is a lot.”
The Robert Street Bridge as seen from the Mississippi River from aboard the Padelford Riverboats’ Anson Northrup excursion boat during a tour Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. St. Paul and Ramsey County lawmakers are asking state lawmakers for major funding for 26 capital investment projects, including the vehicle and pedestrian bridge, built in 1926, which is officially listed as a “structurally deficient” historical landmark. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
The lawmakers climbed under downtown Kellogg Boulevard for a closer look at the the 87-year-old roadway, which is technically a concrete bridge over the limestone river bluff. They sailed (literally) past the Robert Street Bridge, which carries vehicles and pedestrians over the Mississippi River, and, built in 1926, is officially listed as a “structurally deficient” historical landmark.
They visited a sorely-outdated East Side fire station that dates back to 1930, two public libraries whose layouts were equally well-suited to a bygone era, and a functionally obsolete pedestrian bridge over tiger and lion habitat at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.
Youth detention facility
Among the more gripping requests, lawmakers took in a presentation from Community Corrections Director Monica Long about the county’s existing youth detention facility, where some of the most violent and troubled young offenders are locked away in an environment with limited access to sunlight and no greenspace.
Their $16 million request: to relocate the existing juvenile detention center from downtown West Seventh Street to 297 Century Ave. in Maplewood, where it could be co-located next to Ramsey County’s existing adult correctional facility.
St. Paul and Ramsey County lawmakers are seeking major funding for more than 25 capital investment projects, likely through a combination of state bonding and cash.
Even if a bonding or infrastructure bill moves forward, not all requests are likely to be fully funded in 2024. But city and county officials have been able to move projects forward by lining up for multiple bites at the apple to get their priorities backed over several years.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, left, and city councilmember Chris Tolbert, center, talk with Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, aboard the Padelford Riverboats’ Anson Northrup excursion boat on a tour of the Mississippi River on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. St. Paul and Ramsey County lawmakers are asking state lawmakers for major funding for 26 capital investment projects as lawmakers gear up for the next legislative session. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
Here are the projects, in the order prioritized by the city and county in their official submissions to the state. A full list can be found at twincities.com.
Ramsey County capital investment project requests
Rice Creek Commons ($25 million): The county’s top request is for public infrastructure at Rice Creek Commons. Previously known as the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, some 400 acres of developable former military surplus land has been cleaned to residential standards and could soon host a new downtown of sorts for Arden Hills.
Park at RiversEdge ($20 million): Ramsey County has already committed $26 million toward a nine-acre urban park overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul. The park would set the stage for the long-planned AECOM development at the former site of West Publishing.
Aldrich Arena and Community Event Center ($12.8 million): The county is seeking the funds for arena improvements.
St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health Facility ($10.5 million): With the 65-year-old public health center at 555 Cedar St. outdated for modern needs, the county hopes to renovate an existing county building at a different location to host public health clinics and partner services. The goal is to set up 60,000 square feet of space for clients, families and new equipment, as well as specimen collection, with modern HVAC and “negative air” ventilation to prevent the spread of infectious disease. St. Paul’s Midway, East Side, downtown or the North End would be preferred locations. Total cost is estimated at $21 million.
Rice Creek North Regional Trail ($5 million): Located in the northwest corner of Ramsey County, the county’s section of this 14-mile regional trail corridor spans 4.75 miles. The county is seeking the funds to complete a 0.85-mile loop consisting of trail and boardwalk, as well as a parking lot expansion, wayfinding and other amenities.
Youth Detention Facility Improvements ($16 million): On Seventh Street in downtown St. Paul, the county’s youth detention facility has 44 beds for males and females ages 10 to 17, some 92 percent of them youth of color in 2021 — totaling 688 youth in all that year. About one-in-five will stay 30 days or more, in an environment with no greenspace and limited natural light. The building no longer meets best practices for juvenile detention, according to community corrections.
Anaerobic Digester ($30 million): Ramsey and Washington counties are seeking $30 million in cash, a joint capital investment request to create an $85 million food waste digestion facility for the east metro in Shakopee. The goal is to process an estimated 30,000 tons of food waste and 20,000 tons of other organic-rich material annually. The waste would be managed through a biological process that breaks down food with the help of microbes in an airtight container. The end product isrenewable natural gas. A heat treatment could also create biochar, a soil additive.
St. Paul capital investment project requests
Local and state officials take in the sights from aboard the Padelford Riverboats’ Anson Northrup excursion boat on a tour of the Mississippi River to learn about several St. Paul funding requests on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.St. Paul and Ramsey County lawmakers are asking state lawmakers for major funding for 26 capital investment projects as lawmakers gear up for the next legislative session. A bipartisan group of lawmakers — mostly state senators — toured most of the 26 sites on Tuesday and Wednesday, boarding a coach bus and a Padelford riverboat to examine locations by land and water. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
Mississippi River Learning Center ($20 million): The city’s top bonding request is aimed at a new river learning center in Crosby Farm Regional Park off Davern Street and Shepard Road. The center would house the National Park Service and other river-related nonprofits.
Como Zoo and Conservatory, Big Cat Habitat ($22 million): Since July 2022, badly-aging pedestrian bridges over the Como Zoo’s lion and tiger habitat have been closed or propped up by scaffolding, with inspections required four times annually. Plans call for a top-to-bottom reworking of the space, including new wolf habitat and other improvements extending to the polar bear station.
River Balcony ($22 million): The city has long planned a 1.5-mile public promenade along the Mississippi River bluffs in downtown St. Paul from the Science Museum of Minnesota to Lambert’s Landing/Lower Landing Park. Funding would back improvements to Kellogg Mall Park and Lambert’s Landing. It would offer opportunities for public art, events, food, walking, sitting and river viewing.
Urban Tennis/Cemstone site ($5 million): Once used as a demolition and concrete landfill by the Cemstone concrete company, the 13.5 acres of land along East Seventh Street could someday host affordable housing and both indoor and outdoor park facilities, including a permanent home for St. Paul Urban Tennis, a nonprofit that works heavily with young people of color. The city is seeking funds for environmental investigation, a clean-up plan and community engagement.
Bruce Vento Bridge ($24 million): A new bridge could connect the Samuel Morgan and Bruce Vento Regional Trails in the area of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary/Wakan Tipi, over the Hoffman Interlocking rail facility and Warner Road.
Regional Sports Facility ($30 million): The city hopes to create a tournament-ready multi-sport facility on at least 20 acres of land centered around 1500 Rice St.
Lowertown Flood Mitigation ($3 million): With an eye on the Mississippi River levels, the city is seeking funding for deployable flood barriers in Lowertown.
Eastbound Kellogg RiverCentre Bridge ($51.9 million): Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul is actually an 87-year-old bridge atop the Mississippi River bluff, and its age is showing. To streamline traffic circulation, the existing single bridge structure would be replaced with two independent tunnels under eastbound Kellogg Boulevard. The bridge, which runs more than 1,000 feet from West Seventh Street to Market Street, serves as a gateway to some 7 million visitors per year into the Xcel Energy Center and downtown St. Paul.
Phalen Lakeside Center ($10 million): Constructed in the 1970s, the outdated Lakeside Center would benefit from a remodel, creating modern office, cafe and kayak rental space.
Riverview Library ($5.7 million): Built in 1917, the historically-designated Carnegie Library on St. Paul’s West Side would add 2,700 square feet through a glassy new addition.
Como Lakeside Pavilion ($30 million): Funds would design, construct and rehabilitate the Como Lakeside Pavilion, reorienting outdoor audiences toward the lake, adding a glassy exterior and skylight, resituating bathrooms and improving Americans With Disabilities access.
Hayden Heights Library ($4 million): Built in 1978, the Hayden Heights Library hasn’t seen significant renovations in more than 30 years. A remodel would add large front windows, a new community room, three new study rooms, a children’s area as well as new technology.
Dale Street Public Works Campus ($750,000): Pre-design and a master plan for the eventual upgrade of the city’s Public Works campus at 891 Dale St. N.
Myrtle-Sterling Project Update
After some material shortage delays to begin the project, the Myrtle-Sterling Project is gaining momentum with great progress being made over recent weeks. All of the reclaim streets in the project area have had curb replacements completed and the first layer of street pavement installed. Restoration is beginning in the disturbed boulevards along these reclaim streets. All of the utility replacements have been completed along Lakewood Drive, Sterling Street, and Idaho Avenue. The remainder of the utility work in the project area, which lies beneath Myrtle Street, will be completed in September. A great deal of progress has been made along Lakewood Drive in recent weeks, with concrete curb and gutter, concrete driveway aprons, and the first layer of pavement being installed. Overall this project remains on schedule to be completed in late October of this year.
Woodlynn-Southlawn Project Update
Great progress has been made on the Woodlynn-Southlawn project as well. All of the reclaim streets in the project area have had spot curb replacements completed along with the first layer of pavement installed. Restoration of disturbed boulevard areas along these streets is underway. Concrete curb and gutter has been installed along Radatz Avenue, along with the first layer of pavement on the street. These improvements along Radatz offer a first glimpse for residents at the new look and feel of the roadway given the narrower roadway, including two bump-outs to promote slower vehicle speeds. The contractor is currently working on installing the sidewalk along the north side of Radatz Avenue, providing the off-street location for pedestrians along the roadway. Good progress has also been made along Woodlynn Avenue, with concrete curb and gutter replacements along the north side complete. The new look and feel of the narrower Woodlynn Avenue will become apparent next week with the installation of the new concrete curb and gutter along the south-side of the road next week. Overall, this project remains on schedule to be
I want to wish you a great Labor Day weekend. For me, Labor Day signifies the start of football that I love and the end of summer that makes me sad. But Labor Day is a time to also remember and appreciate the significance of labor. I want to thank you Mayor and Council for the work that you do for Maplewood. Together, with your leadership ,we provide high quality services for the residents of the city.
Enjoy the weekend.