A longed-for oasis of green in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood now has a name, Midway Peace Park, and could open within the next year.
Design work will begin soon on what will be a 5-acre park to the south of Gordon Parks High School and near the Skyline Tower apartments. Construction could follow as soon as late this year on this space that once was used as a gathering spot for traveling circuses visiting St. Paul.
A collaborative project between the city of St. Paul and the Trust for Public Land (each has committed $1.5 million), the name Midway Peace Park emerged from a process that involved hundreds of neighbors, students at two nearby high schools, the Union Park District Council and several area businesses.
“Ultimately, Peace got the most votes, although Unity was another name that people liked,” said Jenna Fletcher of the Trust for Public Land. “And then the Midway name — people really identify with Midway. They’re proud of Midway.”
The St. Paul City Council approved the name this week.
In February 2016, the Trust for Public Land bought the last of three parcels that make up the park. At the time, then-Mayor Chris Coleman hailed the purchase as a “rare opportunity” to transform what had been a desert of parking lots near the Green Line.
After buying the parcel with private funds, the trust donated it to the city. It is one of several projects over the years — including Frogtown Farm and Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary — where the trust and the city were partners in adding to St. Paul’s parkland inventory. It’s all part of the trust’s national goal of city residents living no more than a 10-minute walk from a park, Fletcher said.
“Even though 95 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park, we have more work to do,” she said.
According to a previous green space assessment, just 2.3 percent of the Midway neighborhood is dedicated to parkland. Overall, the city average is 15 percent.
Once known as Circus Hill, the site was a gathering spot for circuses that came to St. Paul from 1860 through the 1940s. In recent years, the area has been part of a parking lot and a couple of vacant lots.
Design work begins now and that, too, will be collaborative. A community design advisory committee will hold the first of three monthly meetings on Wednesday, said Liz Hixson, a city landscape architect working on the project. Hixson and Ellen Stewart, project manager for the city, will develop concepts and ask for community feedback. They said they hope to put the project out for bids in late 2018 or early 2019 and that construction could begin soon after.