Writer’s note: On August 14, 2018, St Paul Ward 4 residents will have the opportunity to vote for a new City Council Member in a special election to replace Russ Stark as he accepts a new position within the city. As a Ward 4 resident, I wrote to the candidates to ask them specific questions about the neighborhood around the soccer stadium. They wrote back asking to chat in person. With their permission, I decided to share my interviews with a larger audience. This is part one of the series of conversations with Ward 4 candidates regarding development around the areas surrounding the soccer stadium.
Amy Ireland is a long time Hamline Midway resident, having lived in the area for around 18 years with her family. She has been active within the community. She served on the Hamline University Neighborhood Advisory Committee. She is a founding member of the Hamline Midway Library Association. She also recently became involved in the Hamline Midway Coalition.
“I became an At Large member of the Hamline Midway Coalition,” explains Ireland. “I had no reason to run against the person representing my area, but I wanted to be involved to help North Snelling. I was elected onto the board in November, I was at my first meeting in December, and now the city council position opened up.”
“Every year, people from all over the state go to the state fair and they see Snelling Avenue. It is Saint Paul’s grand entrance. The entire state comes here. It should be something beautiful. This neighborhood is a sure thing.”
Ireland continues, “At Selby and Snelling, whether you like or not like the development there, they basically had a guy come in with private money– redo the building– who made it beautiful and appealing to other people. We don’t necessarily need a Whole Foods, let’s not make it luxury. I would really like to see the city looking for those people who have the money to invest and make places for regular folks to live.”
“We should leverage whatever is happening with the stadium in order to get what our neighborhood needs. I understand that there is a resolution that recommends a Community Development Fund with the stadium development. We should use that to help small businesses that are already here, to help them make improvements that they need.”
Ireland believes that “solutions come from the bottom up. I want to start working with those who are already here.”
“We can take their business to the next step. A lot of those immigrant businesses on North Snelling have put their life savings into those businesses. We can’t lose them. Kathy Sundberg (owner of Ginkgo’s) has some magic recipe as she’s been here 25 years, she’s one of the people on my list to talk with. Groundswell is another that is a response to what the people want.”
“Old fashioned walking and door knocking is how you best reach people. The Ward is big, I’m under no illusion that as a councilmember you can be personally out there on the street. I would like to work more closely with the district councils. Get more feedback from the district councils. On the one hand, the district councils are a way for the community and the city to connect. It seems like a lot of the times, the district councils are against the city and not a cooperative relationship. I’d like to see councilmembers reach out to those people more regularly, ask the councils to take information to the businesses and residents.”
Ireland also notes Saint Paul should “make things on par, not harder.”
“I think about Cupcake, which is gone now completely, but they didn’t move to Grand Avenue. They went to the Mall of America. If a business owner thinks they can exist without parking, if they believe their customers will walk, bike, rideshare, we should believe them. I understand if businesses have parking concerns, they need to take care of their parking issues, make it clear their parking spaces belong to them. I understand both sides of the argument. I used to go to Grand Avenue more, but don’t as much because of parking. If transit were a little better, if I could take a streetcar on Hamline like it used to be, that would be a different story. I’m not sure that is going to happen.”
Recently, it was reported that Metro Transit would like to add at least 10 more BRT lines to the Twin Cities in the coming years.
“The A Line has been great. I remember when it took an hour to get to the Rosedale Mall from here by bus.”
Change is difficult and discussion regarding change is often very polarizing. Ireland says that to avoid the polarization of every new development discussion, we all need to remember to “be a good sport, even when your side wins. Let people who are worried about gentrification know that we understand this is a big loss for you and ask how can we make this better. For example, hearing people who are afraid of being pushed out. One of the things we want to do on North Snelling is get some more housing that is median income rent and mixed income. With enough density, no one will be pushed out. An example right around the stadium is Thomas Avenue Flats, a new development going up at the old sculpture park on Thomas Avenue. I’m not sure how many people know about it, but it’s new housing and it will be affordable. Letting people know that those things are happening. Provide information. Have some basic compassion towards the other side.”
Ireland believes Mayor Carter as an example to follow. “When the mayor went to the Republican Caucuses it was a step in the right direction. You live in my city, I live in your city. Let’s raise the level of public discourse.”
Ireland likes that this neighborhood surrounding the stadium “is diverse not just in ethnicities but in income levels, and I don’t want to change that.”
“Ward Four encompasses a large part of Saint Paul. I’m aware of many concerns such as development in Saint Anthony Park to Marshall Avenue. I hope to help residents with these and other issues.” In terms of the neighborhood surrounding the stadium, Ireland says that if elected, she hopes to play a role in “making the area a vibrant, walkable community that serves the residents of the community.”