Aug. 27--When Project for Pride in Living's two Hamline Station apartment buildings open next year, a public plaza will connect them, allowing everyday passersby to enjoy some greenery amid the bustle and concrete of University Avenue.
Some parks advocates would like to see that model replicated up and down the new light-rail corridor.
While St. Paul and Minneapolis are each 15 percent parkland, the area immediately surrounding the Green Line is 4.7 percent parkland, a number that could decline as new real estate construction rolls in.
In a new 34-page report titled "Green the Green Line," the Trust for Public Land outlines how the lack of green space could be offset by several strategies, including asking private developers to create and maintain publicly accessible spaces.
"This report is meant to be a guidebook to lay out a 10-year approach to seeing more public parks," said Jenna Fletcher, program director for the Trust for Public Land in St. Paul.
The newest concept is called "pops" -- or privately owned public spaces -- and it has been tried, to a limited degree, in the Twin Cities.
Pops -- which can be urban plazas, terraces, atriums, covered pedestrian walkways, gardens and small parks -- are more widely seen in Cambridge, Mass., San Francisco, Charlotte and New York City. The guiding principle is that although privately owned, they're accessible to anyone, not just office tenants, building customers or private residents.
In Minneapolis, the Ackerberg group's new MoZaic office and restaurant development has introduced a public-art plaza bordering the Midtown Greenway and Uptown bus station. The half-acre lot includes a vertical green wall that helps obscure three levels of parking.
Fletcher hopes the pops concept will become another tool for the planning community. "We hope that we'll continue -- ourselves and other organizations -- to work with developers on how to make this viable," she said.
The small-park strategy may be especially relevant, given the shape and size of many of the lots along University Avenue and the 11-mile light rail corridor. Some studies envision at least 17,000 new households moving into the corridor, and demand for green space will be at a premium.
Developers have another incentive to accommodate those demands. According to the Trust for Public Land report, real estate values increase by 5 to 20 percent when park space is nearby.
At the low end, the Midway West area spanning the Fairview, Raymond, Westgate and Prospect Park light rail stations is 1.7 percent parkland, and some 4,400 households are projected to move into the neighborhood.
The report notes that the proposed Curfew Commons urban village south of the Westgate Station could add more green space through a potential pops.
Spanning the Western Avenue, Dale Street and Victoria light rail stations, the Midway East area is 3.2 percent parkland. Studies project an additional 1,700 households will move into the area. A promising area for a pops might be a proposed Mekong Plaza near Mai Village, according to the report.
Many neighborhood activists hope to see new energy put into more traditional parks, linear parks and greenways along the Green Line. The 2.5-acre Dickerman Park off Wheeler Street and Three Ring Gardens off Griggs Street have been waiting on paper since 1909. Under the mayor's current budget proposal, Dickerman Park would receive a $2 million infusion in 2015.
Located a few blocks off the light rail along Minnehaha Avenue, the future Frogtown Park and Farm "is a great example, but 12 acre sites are hard to come by," Fletcher said.
The city of St. Paul has partnered with the Metropolitan Council to market the old Metro Transit bus barn site and adjoining property off Snelling and University avenues for redevelopment.
Fletcher said incorporating public and private green space into Snelling Commons could become a key attribute and a unusual selling point.
Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at twitter.com/FrederickMelo.
ON THE WEB
The Trust for Public Land's "Green the Green Line" report was commissioned by St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. The full report is online at tpl.org.
Copyright 2014 - Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.