Roberta and I live in a loft in the Union Depot and we are always encountering lost, bewildered and confused travelers. Very often, they step off the Green Line and ask us where the Amtrak station is or the bus terminal. This should come as no surprise as the train and bus platform is not visible from the Green Line platform and there is no sign on the colonnaded building identifying what it is or what is inside. People have told me they mistook the Union Depot for a bank or office building.
Finding a store or other business to get directions is not easy. On the eight corners adjoining the Green Line’s last stop in Saint Paul in front of the Union Depot, there is a tot lot, two parking ramps, two surface parking lots and a vacant heavy metal bar – none of these corners has a store or other establishment to ask information the Saint Paul Farmers Market, Mears Park, The Black Dog Cafe, Golden’s, Christos, the Minnesota Museum of American Art or the all the art and music events (the Bedlam Theater, mid-block is hidden behind the wall of the station). Today, an Amtrak passenger standing in front of the Union Depot asked me where he could get something to eat and drink.
When the new ballpark opens and East Fourth becomes a bike route, the numbers of confused and bewildered visitors will likely increase.
Roberta and I had an idea – a building that would serve as a welcome mat for visitors to Lowertown and a community center for people who live and work in the area.
This is a photograph of one of the surface parking lots on the northeast corner of East Fourth Street and Wacouta Street:
Here is a drawing of a building that would serve as an information center, coffee and sandwich shop and bike center (much like the bike station in Washington D.C.). The upper floors could have rooms for community functions and public events. The top floor could house a brightly lit artwork (I think Ta-coumba Aiken’s Lite Brite mural would be nice up there). What do you think?: