One of St. Paul's most diverse neighborhoods could be getting a brand-new community center after years of planning.
All that's missing is the money to pay for it — a gap the City Council member who represents the area says she wants the state to help fill.
The North End Community Center, to be built on Rice Street between Cook and Lawson avenues, will cost about $19 million. It is now $16 million short; St. Paul's proposed 2021 capital improvement budget includes $3 million for the project.
Council President Amy Brendmoen, whose ward includes the North End, said city officials plan to partner with the St. Paul Youth Commission, a group of high school-age residents who work on civic projects, to lobby lawmakers during the next legislative session. Construction could begin in late 2021 or 2022, she said.
Brendmoen said the budget gap isn't a surprise, given the project's scope.
"We knew if we were going to shoot for the moon that we may need some help," she said. "This neighborhood really deserves that type of investment, badly."
The North End is one of St. Paul's most racially diverse neighborhoods — and one of its most historically underserved. It's also a young neighborhood — about a third of residents are under age 18, according to data from Minnesota Compass.
At the Capitol, the proposal will be competing against hundreds of other public construction projects from across the state. Some proposals wait years before being included in the list of projects to get state money, and the process can be intensely political. Last month, Gov. Tim Walz signed a $1.9 billion borrowing package, which included money for roads, bridges and buildings of statewide significance.
The North End Community Center will replace Rice Recreation Center, located at Wellstone Elementary. The capital improvement budget proposal describes the existing space as small, out of date and hard to find.
The new, light-filled building, designed by the same firm that designed CHS Field in downtown St. Paul, will include a gymnasium, fitness room, dance and yoga studio, teen room, kitchen and multipurpose community spaces.
It will connect to the Rice Street Library across the street, with an improved pedestrian connection that will make the intersection safer, according to the city's budget proposal. The goal is to create a campus feel between the two buildings, Brendmoen said.
"We did not intend to go small," she said. "The goal was to have the greatest, best rec center in the entire city."