At the End of the Green Line, a Building That Would Say “Welcome to Lowertown”

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:

building1

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?:

building2

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12 Responses to At the End of the Green Line, a Building That Would Say “Welcome to Lowertown”

  1. Tom Reynen October 29, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Ken,
    This is a great idea and is why the St Paul Art Collective was granted a $65,000 grant to look into the feasibility of just such a center in Lowertown. If you agree that such a center is needed, make your voice known by November 5th by taking our online survey at http://www.stpaulartcollective.org/study

    Tom R
    Vice President, St Paul Art Collective

    • Ken Avidor
      Ken Avidor October 29, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks Tom.

  2. Michelle October 30, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    I LOVE this idea. I’m so glad to hear someone is working on something just like this.

  3. Heidi Schallberg
    Heidi October 30, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Love this.

  4. Tracie Anderson October 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    Yes!!
    Great idea, location, design! Get this talented couple on board!!

  5. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker October 30, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Absolutely. Good thought.

  6. Lisa Nelson November 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    What a great idea, I hope this goes through!!

  7. MNHistoryBuff November 3, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Signage for SPUD is limited because it’s on the historic registry which has strict rules for signs. There are interactive kiosks inside Union Depot that list everything in Lowertown. They already have bike storage and are working on having another cafe according to this Star Trib article: http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/279629722.html Also, the Lite Brite is planned to go back to Union Depot in the future… maybe these ideas would be better AT Union Depot instead of across the street. Why not support an already-functioning center instead of building a new one?

    • MNHistoryBuff November 3, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      Just looked at Union Depot’s website further and they also have event spaces and a calendar with community events. http://www.uniondepot.org/events/ I’m not saying you have a bad idea here, but it sounds like you want something exactly the same as Union Depot… just across the street with more signs.

      • Ken Avidor
        Ken Avidor November 3, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

        Just yesterday, somebody asked me where the Union Depot was, right in front of the Union Depot. Lowertown is a confusing place for a first time visitor.

    • Nathanael November 12, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      Seriously, they put up a giant neon sign in front of Portland’s Union Station (quite a long time ago, admittedly), and there’s a similar one at Denver. There should be the possibility of putting up a giant sign on Union Depot saying, um, “UNION DEPOT”. It’s traditional! There might have been one there in the 1930s, but even if there wasn’t, it would be appropriate to the historic pattern for similar stations.

  8. Keith Morris November 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Kiosks with maps and destinations would be even more helpful if placed around the stations and other areas of Downtown. It would probably be cheaper and faster to install.

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