It’s not enough to say that visitors get lost on St. Paul’s twisting streets. It happens to longtime residents, too.
Hoping to ease some of that confusion, the City Council voted Wednesday to approve street name changes in the Como neighborhood that it hopes will help people find their way around the busy park and lake.
No addresses will be affected by the changes.
Horton Avenue, Como Park’s main east-west thoroughfare, will be renamed Como Avenue to better link the east stretch of Como, which runs nearly to the State Capitol, with the western stretch that extends to the city limits.
The current portion of Como Avenue that runs through the park now will be called Wynne Avenue since it aligns with the street of the same name to the west — even though it still links to Como Avenue on the east.
A short stretch of Horton Avenue will remain between Lexington Parkway and Lake Como as a tip of the cap to Hiler H. Horton, a former state senator and city park commissioner who died in 1906.
The council also decided to seize the moment to resurrect Nagasaki Road, a St. Paul street that disappeared years ago on Harriet Island when the city realigned its flood wall.
Nagasaki — representing the Japanese city that has a sister-city relationship with St. Paul — now will be the new name for Gateway Drive, which winds along Como Lake’s southern shore.
Council Member Amy Brendmoen said the new names were part of the Como district’s plan to ease congestion. “It’s hard for people making their way around the park to find their way,” she said.
St. Paul’s streets long have been the target of jokes by many, including former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who once opined on national TV that “whoever designed the streets must have been drunk.”
According to city historian Donald Empson, developers once named their own streets without worrying about consistency. The standard perpendicular grid also bumps up against diagonal streets that parallel the Mississippi River.
“Since 1870, it’s been the goal of Public Works to give the same name to every street that runs along the same line,” said Empson, author of “The Street Where You Live,” a guide to St. Paul’s streets. “That’s essentially what they’re doing here.”
He added that he’s not sure it’s a good development. “If all these streets had separate names,” he chuckled, “it would keep the riffraff out of the city because they couldn’t find their way around.”
Finney to join council
Also Wednesday, the City Council unanimously appointed former Police Chief William Finney to the council’s Seventh Ward seat.
Starting March 4, Finney will fill the vacancy left by Council President Kathy Lantry, who is stepping down to manage the Public Works Department. Finney will serve until the end of the year, when a new council member to be elected this November takes over.
Finney was recommended for appointment by a City Council committee that interviewed five candidates. Council Member Chris Tolbert said that the former chief “fit the role perfectly in terms of what an interim council member can do.”
The only objection raised came from John Krenik, chair of St. Paul’s Republican Party, who in a statement said Finney had associated with “some of the most questionable individuals” when he was police chief. “His past will become the main focus and that is the last thing St. Paul needs now,” he said.