Public art is expected to be a vital component of the Heights, the mixed-use development being planned for the former Hillcrest Golf Course — and community volunteers will help make that happen.

But the St. Paul Port Authority wants to hear more than what people want the site to look like. It's counting on them to help shape the stories the Heights' public art will tell about the community around it.

"The community is extremely important to this project," said Andrea Novak, a Port Authority spokeswoman. "They are the people who live and work here."

The Port Authority, which is developing the site with a goal of creating 1,000 jobs and 1,000 units of housing, is seeking 10 to 12 volunteers for a Public Art Workgroup. The group will meet four times, starting in February and going through April. Dates and times for those meetings will depend on what volunteers decide is most convenient for them, Novak said.

Meeting locations have not been decided but will be in the neighborhood. Participants will receive a $50 stipend for each meeting attended, presented by the Greater Eastside Community Council and funded through a grant from the White Bear Avenue Business Association. Childcare, transportation and translation services will be available upon request, Novak said.

The Public Art group will be the fifth community engagement group gathered to help steer the site's design and priorities. Its work will be added to that of groups focused on urban design, sustainability, outdoor spaces and housing, Novak said.

While public art is not a requirement in the site master plan that the City Council approved in June, Novak said Port Authority officials want the community to put its stamp on the development. The Port is working with nonprofit Forecast Public Art to create a public art master plan, which would guide everything from which places within the project contain murals, sculptures or educational panels to what message those pieces will contain.

Ideas include incorporating the area's Native American history, as well as stories from the East Side's Hmong community. Other possibilities include exploring the former Hillcrest Golf Course's history as a home for Jewish golfers at a time when they were not welcome at other area clubs and courses. The course opened in 1921.

"How do we develop those stories?" Novak said. "This is the group that will help us take this to the next level."

The 112-acre golf course was closed in 2017 and bought by the Port Authority for $10 million. The site is nearly as large as the former Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in Highland Park, now called Highland Bridge.

Located at the far northeast corner of St. Paul, the former Hillcrest site is one of the city's largest remaining open space development opportunities. As planning proceeds, sometimes contradictory visions have emerged.

Planners are exploring ways to create the city's first carbon-neutral neighborhood. While some see the site as an opportunity to provide live-where-you-work jobs, affordable housing advocates want even more emphasis on developing deeply affordable housing and livable wage jobs for East Side residents.

East Side residents interested in participating in the Public Art Workgroup should apply online at https://sppa.com/public-art-the-heights.