A St. Paul neighborhood’s desire for an expanded Pedro Park was trumped Wednesday by the chance to turn the city’s Public Safety Annex Building into an office development that officials hope will draw hundreds of jobs downtown.
Acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the St. Paul City Council voted 4-3 to preserve the annex and grant the Ackerberg Group tentative developer status to convert it into modern, creative office space.
The vote disappointed supporters of a larger Pedro Park, who filled the council chambers in an effort to encourage the council to demolish the 1926 building.
Many held signs calling on the city to “Keep the Promise” and “Expand Pedro Park.”
“Downtown park space is needed more than ever,” said Kati Berg, who recently bought a nearby condo with an eye toward the city’s decadelong plan to add to the green space where the former Pedro’s Luggage was located.
Council Member Rebecca Noecker, whose ward includes downtown, pressed her colleagues to keep what she called a promise to the neighborhood.
She was joined in her opposition to the redevelopment by Jane Prince and Dai Thao, who lost his bid for mayor Tuesday.
But Council Members Dan Bostrom, Amy Brendmoen, Chris Tolbert and Russ Stark said the opportunity to redevelop the site into desirable office space was too good to pass up.
Stu Ackerberg reiterated Wednesday that his group is committed to further developing and maintaining the existing Pedro Park.
While the park’s footprint won’t be expanded, developers have proposed paying $650,000 to improve it and more than $1 million over 20 years to maintain it.
The city initially planned to raze the annex after the Police Department moved into a new $18 million police training center.
But earlier this year, city officials began entertaining ideas to redevelop the space instead.
After the meeting, Ackerberg said he intends to reach out to Berg and other neighbors to talk about how Pedro Park can be improved and enhanced.