Yvonne Schneider wants to cross the street safely. Carolyn Brandt wants good urban design. Kirk Wythers wants people to understand how soccer culture differs from football.
St. Paul released an 84-page document this week detailing how a professional soccer stadium and surrounding mixed-use redevelopment would impact the Snelling-Midway community. And at an open house Tuesday night, city staff asked a group of more than 100 community members to tell them what they missed and help them plan the future of the area.
St. Paul residents were ready to chime in on everything from traffic to permit parking to noise. They will have a second opportunity to weigh in Friday morning when the Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the master plan for the 34.4-acre site near Snelling Avenue and Interstate 94.
Minnesota United FC owners are working with RK Midway on a plan for the site that will include the soccer stadium, parking, parkland, offices, retail and residential units. RK Midway owns about 25 of the acres planned for redevelopment. A strip mall, parking lot and restaurants are currently located on the company’s land, next to a mostly empty lot where Metro Transit used to stored buses. The lot will become the soccer stadium site.
“That area, right now, is a pit. And to have it developed with green space — to have a park? Ahh,” Schneider said, pleased at the idea.
Like many residents, she is excited about pieces of the plan and concerned about others, especially pedestrian safety.
City staff said police will help people cross streets during events.
“This has to be pedestrian-safe and bike-safe and everything-safe,” Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann said.
Traffic tops concerns
The analysis document the city released Monday included a transportation study that looked into pedestrian and bike use, and traffic.
It found minimal street improvements will be needed before the 20,000-seat, $150 million stadium opens in 2018. But more road improvements should be made by 2035, depending on development of the full 34.4-acre site.
Officials did not find any major issues that would prevent the development from happening, Senior Planner Josh Williams said. But some impacts, like game day transportation, will need to be managed, he said.
About 80 percent of game attendees will take shuttles from off-site parking lots or transit to get to the stadium, according to the report.
Some community members were doubtful of those projections.
K.C. Cox said she expects people will park along the streets in her neighborhood.
“We would like to be able to park in front of our own homes,” Cox said, and the idea of switching to a permit parking system where she has to pay to park on the street is “absolutely abhorrent.”
People have legitimate concerns about traffic in the area, but some of the other issues that have been raised, including tailgating, are likely unfounded, said Wythers, who served on the Snelling-Midway Community Advisory Committee that gave feedback on plans for the site. The committee didn’t just “rubber stamp” the plan, but pushed hard to address many of the same concerns community members raised at Tuesday’s meeting, he said.
Tailgating is not part of soccer culture and developers are not creating a space or atmosphere that would encourage it, he said. He also was doubtful of community members’ claims that people will not take shuttles to matches. He said they do it for other sporting events in the Twin Cities, and its just a matter of educating game-goers.
“They have to know what their options are,” Wythers said, and if people circle the stadium and struggle to find parking, next time they will know to take a shuttle or transit.
As community members dug into transportation and site plan details, a political shadow loomed over the discussions.
During the meeting, Phil Krinkie, a former state legislator who now leads the pro-business organization Capital City Business Council, questioned city staff on why they were moving forward on stadium work when the property tax exemption United owner Bill McGuire requested from the Legislature has not been approved.
“What is the city doing? Where is Bill McGuire?” Krinkie asked.
The property tax exemption was part of the tax bill approved by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Beckmann said as far as the city is concerned the legislative process is still ongoing and they expect a special session.