I want express my excitement surrounding the site plan for the Snelling-Midway Redevelopment. The density, return of the street grid, and mixed-use will be an asset to St. Paul for years to come. However, I need to express some concerns about the right-of-way widths at the proposed development.
As shown above, the proposed rights-of-way for internal street compose more than 25% of the site. From what I’ve heard the team owners say, most of this will be convertible roads that can be closed to cars on game or event days. Closing streets to traffic is a great feature, but I don’t understand the need for 90 feet of right-of-way, even if 30 feet of that is dedicated to sidewalks.
As shown above, 60 feet curb-to-curb gives lane dimensions that encourage fast driving. I understand these are conceptual drawings, which is why I reached out to the city asking them to take the lead and reduce our current and future financial burden while making this site safer for all road users. I emailed several elected officials and received responses that the City of St. Paul is aware of my concerns and that these drawings are indeed conceptual.
This also feeds into financing. If we need to use tax-increment financing (TIF) to finance infrastructure, let’s do it from a fiscally prudent position. Moving forward, these roads will need to be maintained, so let’s work to keep that cost to a minimum. Also, narrowing the right-of-way will allow more developable land, providing more housing, office, and retail space (and tax base) in the heart of the Twin Cities metro instead of more roadways dedicated to cars. And more to this point, since there will be ample parking in structures, these streets should be for moving people and goods, not storing private automobiles.
Finally, as co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, I feel the city should be building protected cycle tracks through this site. We are starting with a blank slate so let’s raise the bar and make cycling and walking the safest it can be.
Again, I am extremely excited for the future of Snelling/Midway and completely understand this is a high level conceptual plan at this point. This site plan will set the tone for planning at the Ford Site, where density will be key. However, I’m concerned about the current car-centric land use of Highland Park and how wide rights-of-way could be co-opted to further entrench automobile usage there.
Let’s strive to make St. Paul even more livable. It starts with our streets.