Grand Plan Unveiled: "Great River Passage" 17 Miles of St. Paul Riverfront | 7.11
Nova Academy Development Process | 7.11

Grand Plan Unveiled: “Great River Passage” Now Designates 17 Miles of St. Paul Riverfront

For the past 12 months, the city of St. Paul has been working with residents and a national design team to create a master plan for St. Paul’s 17 miles of Mississippi riverfront. Led by St. Paul Parks and Recreation and guided by the community, this master plan was unveiled at a community celebration on June 16 at Harriet Island, where the process began last summer.

“This plan thinks big and will lead to transformational change for St. Paul’s riverfront,” said Mayor Chris Coleman. “It will guide preservation of our cherished natural resources and bring valuable economic and community development to St. Paul, ensuring the vitality of the city for years to come. I’m thrilled that this important master plan for the river valley is being unveiled, and excited about the future potential of this epic vision.”

Photo: Watergate Marina will be transformed to include an environmental education center,
cafe, bait shop, areas for picnicking and a nonmotorized boat launch. Credit: St. Paul Parks and Recreation

The planning process came as the result of more than a decade-long effort to secure state funding, which was appropriated in 2009. The master planning process involved extensive resident participation in planning task forces, focus groups and community design forums and workshops. The planning process was managed by the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department, with lead design consultant Wenk Associates of Denver, Colorado and the Minnesota-based Hoisington Koegler Group.

“The outreach to special populations within the community such as youth and environmental organizations, and the community participation in this planning process, was some of the most involved and thorough we’ve seen as a planning and design firm in our almost 30 years of existence,” said Bill Wenk, founder and president of Wenk Associates, “We’re proud of this sweeping, yet intimate plan that establishes a new identity that will guide riverfront development in the City of St. Paul for the next several decades.”
The plan is based on three guiding principles — to be more natural, more urban and more connected. The master plan guides the redevelopment of more than 3,000 acres of river parkland over the next two decades and calls for an integrated system of parks and trails, featuring restored habitat, riverfront parks and activity centers, new life for industrial sites, better trail connections, more river access, and river-based recreation for all.

A new identity for St. Paul’s 17-mile river valley was developed as part of the planning process with the help of Minneapolis-based Little & Company. The city’s riverside parks, trails and open spaces will be integrated and branded overall as the “Great River Passage.” Parks and trails within the Great River Passage — like Hidden Falls, the Samuel H. Morgan Trail and Harriet Island — will retain their individual place names within the overall Great River Passage identification.

“The new Great River Passage identity establishes St. Paul’s 17-mile river valley as a connected system of parks, trails and experiences along the riverfront, creating a unique and inviting destination for all,” said St. Paul Parks and Recreation director Mike Hahm. “As a brand for our river valley, the Great River Passage will help us connect residents and visitors to St. Paul’s chief environmental and economic asset, the Mississippi River.”

The final Great River Passage plan will consist of three different volumes. The first volume compiles existing conditions, past relevant planning work as well as results of the community participation process. The second outlines a detailed vision for the entire Passage; more appropriately termed the “Master Plan.” The third volume describes specific projects to implement with corresponding costs throughout the corridor.

An example of a major concept in the plan is developing additional activity hubs along the river, including a splash pad at Harriet Island, redevelopment of Watergate Marina as a riverfront activity and environmental education center, and redevelopment of the Island Station site — a vacant former coal-fired power plant. Each concept connects residents to the Mississippi and establishes opportunities for riverfront recreation.

The completed master plan positions St. Paul to seek state and federal funds for implementation of Great River Passage projects and developments along the Mississippi River corridor. Over time, the Great River Passage will generate new tourism and economic and community development opportunities while anticipating and serving the recreation needs of generations to come.
With the Master Plan released for further discussion and action, next steps include a St. Paul Parks and Recreation review and public hearing; a review by the Planning Commission; and a final review by City Council that would lead to approval and incorporation into the City’s comprehensive plan. For more information see

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Nova Classical Academy Development Process: Victoria Park Campus Taking Shape

by Jerry Rothstein[IMAGE]

The Nova Classical Academy community and West End neighbors are growing increasingly excited at the prospects of a unified Nova campus in Victoria Park. The St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority awarded Nova “temporary developer” status, which provides six months to arrange financing for the $15 million project.

Brian Bloomfield, Nova’s Executive Director, discussed the array of City agencies with which they are interacting and the need for coordination. He praised the City for its concern for the project’s sustainability: “This may slow the process down a bit, but in the end it is well worth it.”

Photo: Architect’s rendering of the new Nova Academy.

They are working on the purchase and development agreement with the City, intending, as Bloomfield emphasized, “to pay fair market value.” This also requires a site plan, so Nova is interviewing architects as well. The concept drawing shown above is very preliminary, but it does show that all of Nova’s needs for the facility can be met on this site.

One of the wrinkles Nova is dealing with is the overlapping histories of land parcels that were accumulated for Victoria Park. The school building itself is on former Koch lands, while parking is on Exxon lands, and Nova needs help from Parks and Recreation to develop some intermediate land for fields and sports areas.

Bloomfield added that the West End is “definitely the best community for us to be moving into on a permanent basis. In our temporary location at St. Francis we have experienced a level of engagement from community members and a sense of the vibrant and active community we have here.” The new campus will merge Nova’s Upper and Lower Campuses, and by 2012 will be a full K-12 academy.

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Acme Academy of Arts: A New Gem for West Seventh

by Jerry Rothstein

Nance Derby Davidson has had a long time dream to expand her studio, headquarters of Acme Scenic Arts, to become a much richer and more resourceful center for art and culture in St. Paul.

In her vision, a space would be created that could accommodate gallery shows, a range of community events (readings, film nights, workshops and symposia, for example) and especially the teaching of visual art in its many manifestations.

Now, after many months of intense work, Nance is ready to launch the Acme Academy of Arts with an opening gallery show featuring West End artists Paulette Myers-Rich (prints) and David Rich (paintings). The show opens July 15, 5:30-9p.m. at 937 West Seventh.

In the Academy, most of the classes will be taught by accomplished artists, professionals in their fields, drawn from Nance’s circle of highly talented people. She expects to offer classes in watercolor, oil and acrylic, scene painting, faux finishing and mural work. There may be open drawing sessions with live models, and after-school and summer classes for teens. The potential synergy between the Academy and the Gallery is exciting to her. With the Gallery, Nance intends to feature West End artists with a significant number of shows each year.

Photo: Nancy Derby working on the new space. Photo Credit: Jerry Rothstein

Nance began as an art teacher and has worked with Acme Scenic Arts on many large, complicated projects. Acme is renowned for their long involvement with Dayton’s/Macy’s Christmas and flower shows. Her work depends on collaboration and communication and she is used to teaching “on the job.” She sees the Academy’s potential to create a “community of practice” around the teaching and creation of art, where the teachers will have the time they need to delve deeply into their work and how to teach it.

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Progress on Housing in Little Bohemia

by Marit Brock[IMAGE]

A few issues have contributed to the delays in the rehabs and demolitions in the Little Bohemia neighborhood. Invest St. Paul (ISP) funds include new local and federal requirements that were very complicated for both the Federation and the City to wade through. The first round of proposals went very slowly because all involved were trying to learn the new regulations.

While the first five properties had bids accepted at the end of January, for some reason the contracts were not approved at the time. It seems that due to budget concerns, two positions were not filled at Planning and Economic Development (PED), leading to a [IMAGE][IMAGE]staffing shortage that left the rehab contracts in limbo. In addition, it seems that there were some decisions made that might have been related to low staffing and communication issues that delayed these contracts further.

The demolition contracts were awarded several months ago, but due to a staff error of some kind, an important component was missed and the whole process had to start again.

The demo contractor for 310 and 314 Harrison has now been awarded the contract and expects to have those properties demolished in about 45 days. Rehab contracts for 22 Douglas and the property at 276 Nugent were approved as well. That leaves just the rehab contract for 286 Harrison and demo contract for 41 Douglas still out there.

Photo: (top) Rehab is progressing on Banfil.
(bottom right) Douglas house waiting for demo. (bottom left) Rehab contract approved for Nugent house.

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City Providing Free Summer Meals to Youth | 7.11

The City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department and Saint Paul Public Library have partnered with Saint Paul Public Schools to provide free meals to Saint Paul youth this summer.

For the first time this year, the Free Summer Meals Program is extending to four library locations including Arlington Hills, Dayton’s Bluff, Riverview and Rondo. With a large number of youtgh using recreation and library services during summer months, children can continue to receive nutritious meals during school vacations.

The meals are available to youth 18 years old and younger. Persons older than 18 with a mental or physical disability who participate in a public or nonprofit private school program may also receive meals. The meals are served through August 26.

Preregistration is not required, and most sites are open Monday-Friday. For details, visit or call 651-292-6508.

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Whole Wide World @ West 7th Public Library | 7.11

We’re deep into the Summer Reading Program! Along with the free activities available at all the SPPL libraries, W7th will have special program at 10:30 a.m. with Bill the Juggler (July 6), Mixed Nuts (July 13), Wendy’s Wiggle Jiggle and Jam (July 20), and Treasure Beyond Measure (July 27) entertaining all in attendance.

The St. Paul Public Library system has a wonderful new aid for job seekers. JobNow! offers one-to-one help from online job experts — in English or Spanish — from 1-11pm daily. This site also has résumé help, live interview coaching and an Adult Learning Center to help build academic skills. All public computers — we have 15 at W7th — are set up with JobNow! an easy click away. Just ask when you come in and we’ll be happy to show you. (W7th library will also give extra computer time to job seekers.)

Our Storytime volunteer entertains preschoolers (and caregivers!) every other Tuesday and now we have Spanish Storytime every Thursday evening. It’s a great way to increase children’s language abilities, brush up on your Spanish and have fun. See you soon from Lisa and Kyle & W7th volunteers.

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