Fitzgerald Park Neighborhood
The most amazing place to live you've never heard of in St. Paul, MN.
Don't let leaders sell our Park's future.
Bordering the north side of the more famous Downtown and Lowertown neighborhoods sits the Fitzgerald Park Precinct. It has blossomed into a premier residential neighborhood as plans around a new full city block park captured the imagination of so many. To the east of the planned park, the Rossmor and Produce Exchange Buildings were converted to residential lofts. To the north, the former police headquarters became The Penfield with luxury apartments and Lunds&Byerlys grocery store. To the west, the Fitzgerald Building was converted to lofts and existing condo owners at The Pointe of St. Paul and City Walk saw their property values increase. The 10th St. Green Line Train Station was built one block away. Restaurants and bars - Black Sheep Pizza, Keys Cafe, Y Camp Bar, Sawadtee, and Tin Whiskers - opened to border the park.
If the idea of a park can create so much economic activity, what is possible with an actual park? Will we be the next Lowertown?
Our 18 city blocks between 94 and 7th Street, Jackson Street and Saint Joseph's Lane include a hospital, grocery store, fire station, gas station, bank, and four churches. We have daycare to senior living, penthouse suites to homeless shelters, affordable to luxury rentals, plus nearly 1500 individually-owned middle class condominium units for a largely owner-occupied neighborhood. We are home to Minnesota Pubic Radio, History Theater, Fitzgerald Theater, and six buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. We are a complete, fully walkable small town, perfectly placed between St. Paul's business core and the Minnesota State Capitol. Our one fatal flaw - no park and no backyards.
Our momentum to become the next 'best place to live in St. Paul' however seemed inevitable when the police were funded 18 million dollars to build a new training facility. The stated reason for moving was a plan "to remove the building and develop the site into a park." (Log. No. CF-6603207)
A full city block park for the north side of downtown has been a city goal for over 20 years. The first piece of the park became a reality in 2009 when the Pedro family donated two buildings, their former luggage factory and store, that bordered the city-owned Police Annex Building. This video captures how momentous and how hopeful city leaders were to begin building the park.
In an unexpected 180 degree turn around, former Mayor Chris Coleman led efforts to sell the city-owned building bordering the donated Pedro parcel.
In Nov. 2017 the City of St. Paul entered into a 180 day developer agreement to build an office building on our parkland. Our research shows that in their excitement to sell to a well respected developer they overlooked or misrepresented:
- MN State Law protecting our Comprehensive Plan.
- A resolution defining the property within the boundaries of Pedro Park - meant to trigger Chapter 13 of the City Charter if the land was ever sold.
- The donation agreement with the Pedro family. Their donated land is being sold "in conjunction" with the city owned property next door. Marilyn (Pedro) Pitera, the surviving sibling in the donation agreement, has spoken publicly about the betrayal she feels with this action. It was understood and promised the park world be developed and expanded. Instead being 'leased for 20 years' to a developer to be their front yard (as long as they share it with the public).
State Law and the City Charter spell out specific remedies if the city were to change its mind about the planned parkland. These remedies were not followed.
3 of the 7 council members voted against the sale, including downtown's Ward 2 Council Member Rebecca Noecker. Our District Council urged the City Council and Mayor to not sell the land and follow the Comprehensive Plan to make a full city block park.
- This park is the last and most important puzzle piece in recreating the economic success of Lowertown in another part of the city.
- It is critical because parkland was sold away from our neighborhood twice, likely justified anticipating this new park. In 2000 Town Square Park was sold for $100,000. In 2001 Museum Park was given to the McNally School of Music for $1. (Coincidentally both buyers later filed bankruptcy and today both locations are in legal limbo).
- Downtown's office core begins 2 blocks south - a surprising world away. This development prevents needed investment in the office core and prevents proper development of the urban village our neighborhood is designed to be.
- Current office vacancy rates are at 16-20%. This action will likely make it worse.
- The 200 jobs supporters claim will come from this development are pure speculation. There is no evidence showing the anticipated workforce in the building would be a net gain to the city or downtown.
- Residents surrounding the park pay over $3,000,000 per yer in property taxes. A park would increase those values and pave the way for more residential, commercial, and tourism related developments. Lost hope for a proper park could potentially decrease values. In sum, the tax benefit of one new commercial building pales in comparison to the increased value of the property taxes around it if converted to a park.
- The existing pocket park is not big enough to serve the Park and Recreational needs of 10,000+ downtown residents currently living without backyards or access to basic park amenities such as picnic tables, a playground for school age children, or sport courts.
- Hope of expanding the park will die if the Annex sells. Office advocates say the park can still be expanded around the office building. A business office in a residential park? If we can't afford a park on land we already own, how will we ever afford to purchase and develop land we don't own?
- Plus, the alley serving the Annex Building means cars would forever drive through and divide any expanded parkland.
- This is our one chance at cheap expanded parkland downtown. It will cost over $10,000,000 more to develop two acres of parkland downtown (even after profits, 20 years of park maintenance, and projected tax revenue are accounted for) if we sell the Annex Building.
The developer status granted to the Ackerberg Group in Nov. 2017 means they have exclusive right to buy the property should the majority of the City Council like their final offer expected to come in June or July. We must tell city council members to oppose selling the Police Annex Building and support its conversion to a public park. A view supported by:
- Saint Paul's Comprehensive Plan.
- The Capitol River Council.
- Three Council Members and Melvin Carter (before he became mayor).
- The surviving Pedro family donor.
- Near unanimous support of neighbors.
To date there have been no public hearings.
We must hold our leaders accountable. We must fight for our park.
What Mayor Carter said on the campaign trail about Pedro Park:
After the election he promoted the benefits of selling the Annex to be an office building instead of the promised park: