West 7th Place in St. Paul has often been a small and cool pedestrian area for me. It’s also been a pre-event meetup place at (now closed) Wild Tymes for a concert at the X a few blocks away, or next door to it at the least desirable venue in the Twin Cities.
Dating back 100 years, The Palace Theatre was the new fixture in St. Paul’s cultural scene. Today’s acts share the stage with previous performers such as Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and George Burns. To call this a mini-Broadway is way too much, although just the lights, a couple theaters, and the pedestrian mall gives me the perception of being in a different city, if just for a bit.
The theater was originally designed in the French “Beaux-Arts” architecture including the St. Francis Hotel. It still stands as the Seventh Place Residence apartments with mixed reviews. My favorite review quote for the place:
Pizza is Good
Really. See for yourself, but I digress.
My understanding of Beaux-Arts architecture is limited. Arched columns, and good use of space, kind of like… a theater. In the Palace Theatre itself, I went last Saturday to see both the theater and Charlie Parr for the first time and it was amazing! I was pleasantly surprised to hear it seats 2,500 people. That’s certainly a good use of space dating back to the original structure. To me, it looked like it fit just 800 or 900. I’m just glad they renovated and opened it back up in early 2017.
It took the City of St. Paul around a year and a half to renovate it. Or, 56 seconds.
How about the pedestrian aspect of it? This small block is perfect for it, but what does it connect to? I was certainly compelled to read a Streets post from 2014 called Restore the Grid! To the northeast lies a skyway entrance in the Wells Fargo Place but the hours are limiting and well, it’s a skyway. To the southwest lies St. Peter St. which was convenient to catch a Lyft ride home I suppose, but still a bit dangerous for pedestrians moving about in a car-centric area I call the Triangle of Death.
I am a big fan of the Capital City Bikeway Project. Outside of last Saturday, it’s been at least 6 months since I’ve been to downtown St. Paul so I’m not too privy to it, but I do find the nearby Jackson Street towards Kellogg Blvd. bikeway compelling and useful. I really look forward to see what happens on St. Peter to make the Triangle of Death safer. After all, you’re right by Heimie’s Haberdashery! Pull over and take a peek inside. For the bikeway project, I don’t know exactly when the whole project is due to be completed, but maybe you know!
Til’ next time, W. 7th Place. I may be hooked on The Palace and I’ll see you again soon. Skål!
A little surprised to see an article about the West 7th Place pedestrian mall that doesn’t mention Park Square Theater (a St. Paul institution since the 1970s) or the Vieux Carre jazz club (formerly the Artists’ Quarter – also started 1970s in Minneapolis). There’s a lot more in the area than just Heimie’s Haberdashery and the Roy Wilkins Auditorium!
Park Square went through a big renovation just a few years ago and just signed a new artistic director in 2018. Vieux Carre saved a historic jazz venue in St. Paul after AQ folded.
Adding the beautiful Palace renovation to those two institutions enhances the status of West 7th Place as a great arts destination and gives that pedestrian mall a lot of potential.
Thanks Will. I did take a photo of Park Square and suppose didn’t know the history of it (and Vieux Carre)… so I left it out. Really agree on the potential of that mall and look forward to going back!
All hail the Hamm Building!
Park Square is great. We saw Theater Mu’s production of Flower Drum Song there last year and really enjoyed the space.
As a Minneapolis resident and former Commissioner on the city’s heritage preservation commission, I am jealous of this small area. Minneapolis’s MP,s (misplaced progressives) rubbed these areas out of downtown and off Hennepin Avenue. The architectural quality hopscotches around and their advanced age – well – let’s call it ‘patina.’
I went to Vieux Carre on a Saturday night over the summer. The pedestrian mall was a lovely space, but it was so creepy how very empty it was. I think I see more people out and about at 38th and Nicollet – or even 36th and Bryant – on a Tuesday night than I saw at the much larger pedestrian mall in St. Paul. I felt bad by how underutilized the space was.
One thing that could really help is the completion of the Capital City Bikeway along St. Peter Street, which would take a lane of the traffic there and make it into an off-street bikeway with expanded sidewalks. That would have the added effect of solving the “triangle” problem that Paul writes about, and perhaps extending the feel and usefulness of this block-long space out across the street and toward Rice / Landmark.
Let’s fund the bikeway!
Well 38th and Nicollet is a far more “complete” node than 7th Place. If there isn’t a show happening at the Palace, and with Wild Tymes and Great Waters both closed, there is not much of anything to draw people there (as Park Square rarely has shows on a Tuesday).
If only theTraveller can make their facade more inviting .They can convert the street level with store fronts /restaurant with outdoor seatings will enhance the area..They need to develop their huge parking lot
The Coney Island needs to reopen.
The city and county can better market this lovely area ,with utilizing the auditorium of the Landmark center to show movies or live shows .