In the debate over whether to install special glass for the billion-dollar Minnesota Vikings’ stadium in downtown Minneapolis to protect migratory birds, St. Paul wants to make one thing clear: it’s for the birds.
Three City Council members next week will introduce a resolution calling on the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority “to build a bird-proof stadium” with glass walls that are visible to birds rather than completely transparent. To do otherwise, the resolution says, could result in the deaths of thousands of birds.
Why should this matter to St. Paul? For one thing, the city shares with Minneapolis the Mississippi River, a corridor used every spring and fall by 40 percent of the migratory birds in North America. The more birds colliding with the stadium in Minneapolis, the fewer will find their way through the capital city.
And the city wants to stand in solidarity with the Minneapolis City Council, which passed a similar resolution nearly three months ago.
Both St. Paul and Minneapolis signed a federal urban conservation treaty for migratory birds in 2011. Minneapolis’ stadium implementation committee, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Audubon Society all think bird-safe glass is the way to go.
But the St. Paul resolution is unlikely to change the minds of the Vikings or the stadium commission. They’ve already pointed out that specially fritted glass, containing tiny ceramic beads to make it less reflective, would add $1.1 million to the stadium budget.
And they say it could reduce the glass’ transparency for human eyes. If you’re going to design a downtown pyramid wrapped in 200,000 square feet of glass, you ought to be able to see in or out as well as possible, so the argument goes.
A partnership led by Opus Development Co. has been recommended to develop the Seven Corners Gateway site in downtown St. Paul, a small but highly visible parcel across from Xcel Energy Center for which the city has had big plans for years.
The Opus proposal, put forward with Greco Development, includes a hotel, market-rate multi-family housing and retail stores surrounding a public plaza. Retail possibilities include restaurants, convenience shops and entertainment.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Chris Coleman said the Opus proposal “is continued proof of the city’s vitality and economic momentum.”
If the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority – made up of City Council members – approves the tentative developer agreement at next week’s meeting, Opus and Greco will have 18 months to formalize the proposal.
The site is considered valuable for its proximity to downtown, the W. 7th Street entertainment area and the Smith Avenue Transit Center.
The city issued a request for proposals in July to develop the 2.4-acre site, bounded by W. 7th Street and Kellogg Boulevard. Officials were seeking a mixed-use plan that included a vibrant entertainment district.
The Opus proposal was chosen over the only other proposal received, from M.A. Mortenson Co.
Sixteen projects designed to enhance St. Paul neighborhoods along the Green Line light-rail corridor have been awarded a total of $530,000 in grants this week by the Knight Foundation.
The grant amounts range from $75,000, given to a public arts project commemorating black railroad workers and to restoration of the Victoria Theater, to $3,700 for a wayfinding public art project near the Fairview Avenue station.
Other winning projects include beautification of the Interstate 94 bridges, installing green community space alongside Big Daddy's BBQ, and expanding a community plaza and street market in the Little Mekong district.
The winners were chosen from among 579 applicants to the Knight Green Line Challenge, a $1.5 million program to develop Green Line neighborhoods in St. Paul. The program will continue for two more years.
Eleven community reviewers narrowed the list to 48 finalists, with the winners chosen by reviewers and representatives of the Knight and St. Paul foundations.
For a complete list of the winners, go to www.knightgreenlinechallenge.org/.
St. Paul Public Works Director Rich Lallier will retire next month after 36 years working for the city, Mayor Chris Coleman announced Monday.
Top mayoral adviser Nancy Homans will become interim public works director in late November after Lallier leaves, Coleman said. The city has enlisted Springsted Consulting to conduct a search for a new director, with plans to appoint Lallier's successor in February.
Lallier, who has been public works director since 2010, brought new parking meters downtown, helped implement the citywide biking plan and identified the city's arterial streets most in need of repair, the so-called "Terrible 20."
He began working for St. Paul in 1978 as a recreation leader and lifeguard for the parks department. In 1998 he became a parks operations manager, overseeing the budget.
"Rich has been an asset to St. Paul, from his first years as a seasonal worker to his work at public works director," Coleman said, in a prepared statement.
Built in 1928, the Highland Park water tower continues to provide water to the Highland Park neighborhood.