The planning process has barely begun, but it appears the area around the busy intersection at Como and Front avenues and Dale Street will receive some economic stimulus and possibly a modest facelift starting next year.
The area is one of two—the West Seventh and Arcade street-intersection centers the other—designated to receive $337,500 each in development funds under the new Commercial Vitality Zone Program recently initiated by the City of St. Paul.
Using sales tax revenue created by the .5-cent local sales tax, the program will promote citywide vitality, growth and equity, according to its sponsors.
The Como/Front/Dale intersection “is a great example of a serious economic engine tucked into a neighborhood—such a variety of shops and so many jobs in a two-block radius,” said Amy Brendmoen, Fifth Ward city council member. She joined First Ward representative Dai Thao in seeking the designation for the area.
“We are both excited to work with community members to create a vibrant, user-friendly community node where the North End and Como come together,” she said.
The Commercial Vitality Zone program is an outgrowth of Mayor Chris Coleman’s 8-80 Vitality Fund, approved by the city council to provide money for projects such as street reconstruction, bicycle infrastructure and green space development along the Green Line.
Representatives of the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department will be meeting with community groups in the Como/Dale/Front area to determine how the funding will be invested. The intersection lies on the border between the District 6 Planning Council on the east and the District 10 Como Community Council on the west.
“It is great that funds are moving into neighborhood corridors,” said Kerry Antrim, executive director for District 6. She noted that the area already had been identified by the district as a prime candidate for redevelopment.
In fact, a major set of improvements for the intersection were recommended in a study prepared by the Metropolitan Design Center of the University of Minnesota in 2011. Although those recommendations were not pursued at the time, the study helped build the case for including the intersection in the Commercial Vitality Zone Program.
So what can one expect to accomplish for $300,000-plus around a six-legged intersection most agree is difficult to negotiate no matter what the mode of transportation?
(The University of Minnesota study noted that there is such a large amount of pavement in the intersection that the St. Paul Cathedral would fit comfortably there.)
“We hope to see an engineering plan, maybe some active real estate recruiting, perhaps some temporary applications to experiment with intersection improvement, small business incentives and ideally a larger plan of action that will spur private investment in the area, too,” said Brendmoen.
At least one parcel of land is a candidate for redevelopment, the former site of Schroeder’s Bar and Grill on Front Avenue, whose owner decided not to rebuild after a devastating fire early this year.
Roger Bergerson writes about community news and history regularly in the Park Bugle. He is a resident of Como Park.