The head of St. Paul’s skyway committee kicked off the last meeting of 2017 with some harsh realities.
“The skyway was in deplorable shape,” Andy Flamm said, reading a letter from a friend who recently visited St. Paul. “The signage was minimal and confusing. Most sections were in disrepair with missing or stained and corroded floor tiles.” The letter went on to describe ripped up carpeting, damaged wall coverings and “urine on the floors.”
One month ago, the St. Paul City Council approved new skyway rules aimed at combating many of those issues. The regulations followed growing complaints from business owners and residents over the past couple years about skyway safety and cleanliness. At the Skyway Governance Advisory Committee meeting Friday, Flamm, the chairman, acknowledged that “we’ve got a long way to go.”
But he said several improvements should be in place before the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
The biggest change city leaders approved — closing the skyways at midnight instead of 2 a.m. — has already occurred. By the end of the year, city staff plan to post maps to help people navigate the skyways and signs outlining prohibited behavior, said Dan Niziolek, deputy director of the Department of Safety and Inspections.
The city’s not alone. Flamm said the new owner of the former Pioneer Press building, which is attached to some of the problematic skyways, plans to start making building improvements soon. And a stain-covered carpet in the skyway connected to the Central light rail station will be replaced over the next week.
Security efforts are taking longer. The city asked building owners to submit video surveillance and security personnel plans to ensure they comply with new rules, though not everyone has done so. The Greater St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Association also commissioned a broader downtown security analysis, but that will not start until after the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, police have been spending more time patrolling skyways, St. Paul Commander Brad Hazelett said Friday. He proposed boosting the number of officers downtown from 20 to 25 to deal with increased crime and homelessness and expects to see that change in 2018.
“Because of the growth of all the new residents we have and the events that are coming, we need a bigger police presence,” Flamm said. “I’m very optimistic that soon people will see the changes we’ve been working on for the past couple years.”