Propped up on a metal crutch, the hallway protrudes from the shuttered Macy’s building in downtown St. Paul, connecting no one to nothing.
The so-called “skyway to nowhere” has hung above pedestrians, unused, on Wabasha Street for more than a decade. Community groups, frustrated by the eyesore, have pushed for its removal. Their wish will finally be answered.
The St. Paul Port Authority and developer Hempel Cos. plan to tear it down in the next few months to make way for the redevelopment of the former Macy’s property. The skyway would get in the way of cranes that will be needed to build the enclosed Minnesota Wild practice rink on the building’s roof, said B Kyle, the Port Authority’s project manager for the Macy’s building.
People have wanted to get rid of the skyway for years, but there wasn’t money to do it, said Andy Flamm, chairman of the Skyway Governance Advisory Committee.
“It wasn’t serving any purpose,” Flamm said. “We’re all happy to see it go.”
The removal of the pedestrian-free skyway is expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000, Kyle said.
Hempel Cos. and the Port Authority are partnering on the Macy’s project and will pay for the tear down, she said. Taxpayer money could help cover the cost, however, because the city established a tax increment financing (TIF) district last year to support the Macy’s building overhaul. Port Authority documents show TIF dollars are expected to pay for $11 million of the $60 million project.
The skyway was built in the 1970s, Port Authority staff said. One end is attached to the closed Macy’s building, which developers are calling Wabasha Center. The other end is not attached to anything. The building it used to connect to was torn down in 2002 and replaced with a parking lot.
Joe Furth owns Eclipse Records, located in the shadow of the obsolete skyway. He is surprised it has remained in place for so long. Tearing it down will help improve the visibility of his business, Furth said.
“I like the idea that it’s going away because that shows there’s progress toward the vacant Macy’s [redevelopment],” Furth said.
When the Wabasha Center building opens, he hopes it will make the area a destination for visitors.
There has been progress going on behind the building’s windowless walls, Port Authority spokeswoman Andrea Novak said. The majority of internal demolition is complete and asbestos remediation is nearly finished, she said.
Developers are aiming to wrap up construction by the end of next year, Novak said. The building is expected to house parking, office and commercial space, in addition to the ice rink.
Visitors at the Wild practice rink will likely see the parking lot when they look next door. If a building replaces that lot, Kyle said they would be obligated to add a new skyway connection where the old one once stood.
As for the aging skyway from the 1970s, it could get a new life. Port Authority staff have talked about selling it on eBay, and it could be of interest to an arts group or someone with a vision for a unique cabin, Novak said. A former Minneapolis skyway, no longer used, was sold to a Brainerd couple who planned to live in it.
“That’s something we’re focused on right now,” Novak said. “But we don’t have the answer.”