For nearly 10 years, the talk was that once the St. Paul Police Department moved out of the old police annex, the building would be razed to expand an adjacent park.
But earlier this year, city officials started shopping the site to developers in an effort to add more jobs downtown.
On Thursday, City Council Member Rebecca Noecker, whose ward includes downtown, came out against developing the site.
Noecker wants to stick to the original plan to expand Pedro Park, keeping a promise to a neighborhood woefully short of green space.
She intends to convince her council colleagues to join her.
“I really don’t think there’s a compelling reason to go away from the plan that we made with the community,” she said.
But Jonathan Sage-Martinson, director of St. Paul Planning and Economic Development, said the deal to transform the annex building into desirable “modern, creative office space” could make the existing Pedro Park better.
While the park’s footprint would not be expanded onto the annex space, developers have proposed paying $650,000 to improve Pedro Park and more than $1 million over 20 years to maintain it.
“We thought it made sense to step back and take a look at this,” Sage-Martinson said.
Mayor Chris Coleman said the plan for offices is good, for development and the park.
“This proposal allows us to continue building on the vitality of downtown St. Paul by improving green space and attracting new jobs to the area,” the mayor said in a statement.
The city initially planned to raze the building after the Police Department moved into a new $18 million police training center.
But on Wednesday, the City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, will instead vote on whether to give tentative developer status to the Ackerberg Group for a plan that city officials say would house about 200 workers, add construction jobs — and money to further develop the current Pedro Park space.
On Thursday, Noecker acknowledged the city currently doesn’t have the money to develop the full block into a long-desired park.
But she argued that in a downtown that has 4,000 households living immediately adjacent to the block — and a downtown office vacancy rate of 20 percent — the area needs a park more than it needs more office space.
“It’s about the only place where a park can go,” she said of the block. “It’s not the only place where jobs can go.”