Mayor Coleman sends St. Paul's wish list to Washington

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS
  • Star Tribune
  • December 23, 2008 - 11:18 PM

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman recently sent a public projects wish list topping $170 million to the city's federal delegation with the hope of getting a slice of a possible economic stimulus package being discussed in Washington.

The list includes many projects that are ready to begin if the money is there to pay for the work.

President-elect Barack Obama has proposed a recovery plan that includes an emphasis on public infrastructure projects as a way to spur job growth. His plan would feature spending on roads and other infrastructure projects, making government buildings energy-efficient, building and renovating schools and adopting environmentally friendly technologies. No firm plans have been made and no solid price tag has been affixed, but the plan could provide up to $1 trillion over two years.

Among the other unknowns are how the money would be doled out. "Quite frankly, the more directly you can give the money to local units of government, the better it will be spent," Coleman said.

Other governments have been assembling their own lists of projects, too. While the future of the economy and depth of recession is unknown, the need for jobs and improved public infrastructure is easy to gauge.

"These projects will generate significant numbers of jobs in St. Paul and serve to strengthen our local economy," Coleman wrote in his letter to senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar, and Rep. Betty McCollum. "Now, more than ever, we look to Washington for leaders who will advocate for main-street needs and give us the means to create jobs and reverse this economic downturn."

Department directors compiled the list, which has projects ranging from street reconstruction to helping residents improve the energy efficiency of their houses to building an emergency operations center.

Among the projects:

• $10 million to build an underground parking facility on the block bounded by 4th and 5th Streets and Cedar and Minnesota in downtown St. Paul to coincide with the Central Corridor light-rail line.

• $2 million for the reconstruction of the Channel Street Stairs, also known as the Green Stairs. Built in 1916, the steel-and-wood structure rose 191 steps to connect the Prospect Park neighborhood to Wabasha Street on the West Side. The stairs were removed last spring after being damaged by a boulder.

• $40 million for the first phase of Cleveland Circle, the city-owned lot across W. 7th Street from the Xcel Energy Center. Planning is almost complete and construction would include an ice rink for youth activities and a partnership with the Minnesota Wild.

There would be room for retail and commercial space. The city estimates the project would bring 200 construction jobs and between 100 and 200 new jobs after completion.

• $8 million for the Arlington Library and Recreation Center, also known as the Miracle Center, on the East Side. Plans call for a multiuse building that would combine a library, recreation center and space to serve a grouping of private and faith-based organizations. The site is located in one of the most distressed areas of the city and has a high concentration of people, foreclosures and job losses. The city estimates there would be between 50 and 100 long-term jobs after completion.

• $8.5 million for a new Como Park Aquatic Center. The pool was shut down in 2007 because of irreparable deterioration.

• $11 million for a new gorilla exhibit at the Como Zoo. It has been designed and approved, but there's no money for construction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542

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