Pounding A Square Peg Into A Round Hole – On Your Dime

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Ramsey County tore down the old jail and West publishing buildings on Kellogg Boulevard, now the county is ready to negotiate with a developer for new buildings on that site.  When government “negotiates” with developers, I fear the only question will be “how much are Joe Doakes’ taxes going up to pay this developer to take this white elephant off our hands?”

The part that kills me is this: “One of Saint Paul’s greatest assets is the Mississippi River,” said Jonathan Sage-Martinson, director of the Department of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Saint Paul. “Redevelopment on this site will play an important role in further enhancing downtown vibrancy and embracing our position as a river city. This site allows us to connect our downtown community to one of Saint Paul’s most incredible natural landmarks, and I applaud Ramsey County for entering negotiations with a developer who shares that vision.”

No, Jonathan, you’re dead wrong and your council knows it, which is why the City isn’t jumping into this briar patch, they’re letting the County do it.  The river is nothing in St. Paul as presently situated – that’s why the initial colony was located to the East of the present downtown and was called Pig’s Eye – because that’s where the land slopes down to the river so you can get out of your canoe.

San Antonio has a riverfront development.  Tours, shops, restaurants, a wonderful natural resource to exploit.


Here is a photo of the West building, nearly demolished.  This is the view from Kellogg Boulevard, the major street that runs past the Xcel Center where the Wild play hockey.





Fine, an ugly three story building gone, right?  Not quite.   Here’s the view of the building from the bridge over the river.




There were three stories ABOVE Kellogg Boulevard and six stories BELOW Kellogg Boulevard, then a railroad track that cannot be relocated, and then a four-lane road (Shepherd Road) before you get to the riverbank.  You won’t be sipping your latte on the bank of the river or strolling along the waterway, you’ll be looking at it from 200 yards away, right about where the yellow crane is sitting in this photo.

Minnesota doesn’t have riverfront developments, mostly because the river bank is a flood zone.  Even St. Anthony Main isn’t on the river – it’s separated by a road.  It’s not a “riverfront” development, it’s a “river view” development, and if you’ve ever priced homes you know that distinction is incredibly important.

This whole thing is idiotic.  Which means nobody would build it on their own, they’ll build it only if they can get a big enough bribe.  I’m already paying for a better Minnesota; I’m not looking forward to paying for a nicer riverfront.

Joe Doakes

But pay you shall.

The Twin Cities are  noted as two river cities whose downtowns turned their backs on their riverfronts, literally and symbolically.   And in Saint Paul’s case, it’s happened in ways that’ll take a generation or two and an exquisite amount of money to fix.

8 thoughts on “Pounding A Square Peg Into A Round Hole – On Your Dime

  1. […] then a railroad track that cannot be relocated […]

    The only reason it hasn’t been relocated is that it’s owned by a very large company with deep pockets. Were it not for that, I have no doubt that St. Paul would have exercised eminent domain to put it out there for “better” use.

  2. You’d have the legal issues–it would cost ten billion dollars to reroute the BNSF outside of the metro–and then you’d have the environmental cleanup–150 years of creosote and oil dripping there makes it more or less a Superfund site. St. Paul would really be reliving the glory days of the Niagara Falls School District, which made “Love Canal” a household name by forcing Hooker Chemical to allow them to build on a toxic waste dump. All for a few thousand bucks annually in tax revenues….

  3. Ah, the view of the rushing water as you sit by the waterside, seeping your cool-aid under about 5″ of water during spring floods. The serenity. Mississippi ain’t no San Antonio river.

  4. DG,

    Further proof of exactly what I’m complaining about; you read nothing after you post comments.

    Read this before you post again.

  5. What Saint Paul needs is a monorail! And a big f’n casino!
    If you build it, they will come!
    Who says you can’t build a city with cliche’s and platitudes?

  6. The reprobates running SP took maybe the most prime property, across from the Xcel, and built a bus terminal. They stiffed Dave Cossetta on a hither-to agreed plan to build an event venue adjacent to his new restaurant. Why would anyone believe they wont bungle thus opportunity , too.

  7. JPA hits the nail on the head. Over the years I did a lot of business with St. Paul District Energy (you can see their building smoke stack in the upper left of the photo), many a spring you had a hard time getting to their parking lot because of flooding.

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