Since the mid 1990s, the City of St. Paul has worked very actively to connect its urban fabric to the Mississippi River corridor through the city. The 1997 publication of the St. Paul on the Mississippi Development Framework, and its subsequent use by the City and by the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation as a tool to shape urban design and planning in "river precincts" have made St. Paul a leader among Mississippi River cities that are undertaking a systematic approach to reengaging with the river.
Just to cover my bases with some of my program collaborators, let the record show that Minneapolis is doing great things with its riverfront also. But this post is about St. Paul.
Last week, the City of St. Paul kicked off a year-long master planning process for the "Great River Park." The City has 17 miles of Mississippi riverfront, more than any other city, and a number of parks on that corridor. But the parks aren't well connected, either in the physical landscape or in the public's mind as an integrated system. In 2009 the City received state funding for a process to integrate city and park into a "Park within the city/city within the park."
There's a lot to like about this effort, about which you can learn more at an impressive Great River Park web site. The focus on including diverse systems into a place that is "More Natural, More Urban, and More Connected" has to be seen as central to establishing a fully sustainable urban riverfront. And the early development of a "Cultural Audit" that reaches out to include more people in the community than the usual riverfront stewardship suspects is very welcome. See a video of the audit from a link at the bottom of main section pages of the web site.
We'll be tracking this project closely, and participating to the extent we are able. The consulting team, led by Wenk Associates from Denver and the Hoisington Koegler Group in Minneapolis (part of the team that developed the exciting "Power of the Falls" plan for the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board) is very qualified to bring a visionary plan to St. Paul. Stay tuned!