Pedro Park
Razing the city’s former Public Safety Annex (with red circles) is expected to trigger enlargement of Pedro Park on 10th and Robert streets.

The demolition of the city’s former Public Safety Annex could occur by the end of the year, triggering the development of Pedro Park on 10th and Robert streets in downtown Saint Paul.

That was welcome news to most of the 60-plus residents who filled a meeting room at Keys Cafe on July 25. They have waited for more than two decades for the development of Pedro Park to begin.

Julie Printz, who led the city’s Pedro Park Work Group, said uncertainty about the annex’s fate has impeded the development of the park. The group, which finished its work earlier this year, asked that the city demolish or sell the annex at 100 E. 10th St.

City Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) staff have identified $1.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grants to raze the annex. PED deputy director Travis Bistodeau said the city must use the money to have demolition and site work completed by next March or risk a reduction in future allocations.

   

The park appears in city plans dating to 1997 as Fitzgerald Park. The name was changed in 2009 after the Pedro family closed its longtime luggage shop in 2008 and donated the .45-acre site to the city with the understanding that it would be combined with adjacent land for a park bearing the family’s name.

The city’s Police Department vacated the adjacent Public Safety Annex four years ago. However, instead of tearing down the annex and creating a larger park, the City Council voted 5-2 in October 2018 to sell the building to the Minneapolis-based Ackerberg Group, which planned to convert it into retail and office space.

Ackerberg was to purchase the building for $1.4 million and planned to work with the city to develop the vacant land next to the annex as a park. It also agreed to provide $40,000 annually for 20 years to maintain the park.

 

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At the time, development of Pedro Park had an estimated cost of $3.8 million. It was to include play equipment, paths, seating, space for dogs and a water feature.

“If a first-rate developer couldn’t make (redevelopment) work, we don’t want a second-rate or third-rate developer,” said neighborhood resident Chris Beckstrom.

The sale of the annex angered many neighbors, who wanted the building demolished and its site added to create a park that would take up the entire block. Ackerberg dropped the project in 2020 and a lawsuit against the city filed by the Friends of Pedro Park was dismissed. That same year, the City Council took $800,000 in previously allocated Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) funds away from the park to help balance the city budget.

Only one person at the July 25 meeting spoke for saving and renovating the annex. Others disagreed.

“If a first-rate developer couldn’t make (redevelopment) work, we don’t want a second-rate or third-rate developer,” said neighborhood resident Chris Beckstrom.

Demolition of the annex makes more financial sense, Bistodeau said. The building, which dates from 1925, does not meet current building codes. Roof replacement alone is expected to cost $1.3 million, while replacing HVAC and other building systems would cost $1.6 million. The cost of maintenance and dealing with everything from break-ins to water issues has been $60,000-$100,000 annually.

PED, Parks and Recreation, and the city’s Office of Financial Services and Real Estate looked at annex issues for several months. An environmental and historic review are now underway, with involvement from the State Historic Preservation Office.

“By September we’ll know if we can move forward,” Bistodeau said.

If the building is found to have no historic significance, removal of asbestos and lead can proceed, followed by demolition. The goal is to have a licensed contractor in place for the latter by December.

Once the annex is gone, its site would be graded and stabilized. Park development could proceed once funding becomes available, said Alice Messer, parks design and construction manager.

The work group suggested private fundraising, including working with the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. To loud cheers, Carol Gregory of Keys Cafe wrote a $2,000 check on July 25 to get the fundraising started.

— Jane McClure

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