Three ideas are competing for a $1 million prize to revitalize St. Paul — and Minnesotans can vote for their favorite starting now.

The Minnesota Idea Open and the St. Paul Foundation announced Tuesday the three finalists in the Forever St. Paul Challenge, a contest launched last winter to find and finance the best idea to improve the capital city. The finalists are:

• St. Paul Art Train, submitted by Craig Blakely, which would convert unused rail cars into rentable studios for artists and creative businesses (

• St. Paul Center for Creative Arts, submitted by Jack Ray, a hub for youths to learn, practice and use creative disciplines for the good of the community (www.mnideaopen/node/19546).

• Urban Oasis, submitted by Tracy Sides, which would remake part of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary into a unique food hub (www.mnideaopen/node/18786).

The St. Paul Foundation is fronting the $1 million award to make the winning proposal a reality. The prize money comes out of a larger donation made four years ago to community foundations by the Minneapolis-St. Paul 2008 Host Committee, which ran the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The finalists were selected by a panel of nine judges from a pool of 30 semifinalists chosen by community volunteers. Nearly 1,000 ideas were submitted.

Minnesota residents can vote online at or at upcoming events including the State Fair. Voting ends Sept. 2.