I’ve entered the world of politics to save Pedro Park.
It’s a park that only exists on paper and in our dreams, but it was so well planned and so close to the finish line, we bought a condo across the street confident our 5 and 8 year old would play there soon.
And then, in a 180° turn around, the Mayor of Saint Paul decided our neighborhood needed an office building more than a park.
- Never mind the park has been in the official city blue print since 2006.
- Never mind our population has doubled since the park was first considered a need.
- Never mind a multi million dollar donation from the Pedro family to see a larger park become a reality.
- Never mind $100,000 spent for a feasibility and planning study.
- Never mind the official park boundaries set in 2015 include the building now up for sale.
- Never mind the official reason for vacating that building was – and I quote from Log. No. CF-6603207 requesting $16 million for the Police Department – “(deciding) on a plan to remove the building and develop the site into a park. The age and condition of the building and the furtherance of the City’s plan creates an urgency to demolish the annex…”
- Never mind no funding for the park has been attempted since it became vacant.
The Mayor’s bold new alternative vision is an office building surrounded by park land. The ugly building we abhor will become a beautiful centerpiece if we just open our minds.
Who puts an office building on park land? Especially with a 20% office vacancy rate. John Mannillo, a downtown advocate, laid it out in his editorial to the Pioneer Press – adding office space to an already depressed office environment will hurt the tax base and hurt existing building owners.
If the city owned, vacant building is sold for the offered $1.3 million, the only alternative to expand the park will be to acquire and demolish the neighboring daycare center for $4-8 million. It’s not for sale, but if it was, it would sell with a sister property across the street. Plus, an alleyway would need to be eliminated – a logistical and legal nightmare for sure. In sum, the Mayor’s park expansion plan is 4 times expensive, infinitely more complex, and will most likely push realization of the park out decades if not generations.
Of course this isn’t how the Mayor is framing the issue. He sees an opportunity to save a building, bring jobs downtown, and fund improvements to the existing pocket park. Noble goals, but to paraphrase Steven Covey’s advice in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – “When climbing the ladder of success, be sure your ladder is propped against the right wall.” Or more succinctly: begin with the end in mind. The Comprehensive Plan is our “end in mind” as a city, and it calls for a full block park on this site.
Fortunately, there are 7 independent council members who can vote “no” to the Mayor’s short sighted plan. 3 have committed to doing so. 4 others have not.
Please write or call asking them to stay focused on the long game – a park for future generations to enjoy.
- Russ Stark, 651-266-8640, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chris Tolbert, 651-266-8630, email@example.com
- Dan Bostrom, 651-266-8660, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Amy Brendmoen, 651-266-8650, email@example.com
And mark this date:
Wed. Nov. 8, 2pm City Hall
We need as many people as possible to be there when they vote. We will meet at 1:30 before hand. 15 Kellogg Blvd. West, Room 300, St. Paul, MN.
Potential talking points:
10 Reasons to Vote “No” to Selling the Annex Building
- The community and city have planned a park on this location for 20 years.
- Neighbors bought condos, started businesses, or made investments based on these plans.
- Our population has doubled, making the need for a park even greater today. 4000 people without backyards are counting on this park for green space.
- No park funding has been attempted since the Annex building was vacated. A “Yes” vote is giving up before trying.
- Our neighborhood needs an anchor. Like Mears Park in Lowertown, we can be the next “it” place to live, work, and build.
- Downtown has a 20% office vacancy rate. 5% vacancy is healthy. Oversupply hurts downtown.
- The sale will break promises made to the Pedro family and to the neighborhood, documented in votes cast in 2006, 2009, 2010, & 2015.
- The reason the Police Annex Building is vacant is because the city decided “on a plan to remove the building and develop the site into a park. The age and condition of the building and the furtherance of the City’s plan creates an urgency to demolish the annex…” (From budget request, Log. No. CF-6603207, for $16 million dollars to build new Police Training Facility)
- Per the 2012, $100,000 park study conducted, expanding the park without removing the Annex Building will cost 4 times as much, requires the complexity of removing alley easements, and pushes the timeline out by decades (if not generations) as the day care center currently in use would need to be purchased and demolished.
- More people and families are choosing downtown than ever before. Our current downtown park system lacks basic community amenities such as playground equipment for school age children or a picnic table.
*Disappointing results at the Nov. 8 meeting. 4-3 the developer got their foot in the door. They have 180 days to do due diligence and make a final offer. The war rages on for our park…