The effort to upgrade St. Paul’s signature plaza — Rice Park — got a $300,000 kick-start Tuesday.

Local organizations that support the project gave the city a check to help pay for planning efforts.

The groups expect to raise $1.35 million for the park updates, said Amy Mino, chairwoman of the Rice Park Association. The overhaul is estimated to cost $2.42 million, with the city helping fill the gap, she said.

The upgrades would include new flower beds, lighting along pathways, paving and a lighted feature as part of the central fountain, initial renderings from the city show. Improvements also would be made to the park’s irrigation and electrical systems.

“This is the first step to making this project a reality,” Mino said after community members presented the check to City Council Member Rebecca Noecker.

The organizations supporting the project, including the St. Paul Garden Club, St. Paul Parks Conservancy and Rice Park Association, have been holding events to raise money for the changes. Construction is expected to begin next year.