Park at RiversEdge
The Park at RiversEdge will be part of the proposed River Balcony, a 1.5-mile promenade along the Mississippi River bluff in downtown Saint Paul.

The long-proposed RiversEdge mixed-use development along downtown Saint Paul’s riverfront has taken another step forward. The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on December 20 to commit $26 million toward the development of the Park at RiversEdge.

The 9-acre public park would be built over Shepard Road and adjacent railroad tracks and provide direct access to the Mississippi River. It would be adjacent to the approximately $800 million mixed-use RiversEdge development on the former site of the county jail and West Publishing properties along Kellogg Boulevard between Wabasha and Market streets.

The county’s allotment for the park is considered the first public funding allocation toward building that amenity for RiversEdge. It also puts the county in a position to seek a matching $26 million grant from the 2023 Minnesota Legislature for the $84 million park.

The county sought funding for the park in 2022 through the state’s biannual bonding cycle. However, the project did not make Governor Tim Walz’s list of priorities and the Legislature did not pass a final bonding bill last year.

State lawmakers, who began a new legislative session on January 3, have not indicated if they will try to pass a bonding bill this year. Ramsey County’s top bonding priority for 2023 is the $26 million request for the park. (County’s legislative agenda.)

County and state funding would be used to acquire, design, build and furnish the Park at RiversEdge, which has been touted as a place for public events, dedicated retail and restaurant space, and connecting trails.

Bane Gaiser, who has led the RiversEdge effort for Los Angeles-based developer AECOM in recent years, said the county funding commitment will help carry the project forward. “We’ve worked on this together for many, many years,” Gaiser said.

Gaiser is now being succeeded on the project by Matt Crane. In a statement, Crane said, “At a time when many downtowns are recovering from the pandemic, we’re pleased to see the Park at RiversEdge moving forward and proud to work with Ramsey County and the city of Saint Paul on this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

County Board chair Trista MatasCastillo agreed, calling the county’s allocation for the park “historic.”

County officials celebrated both the funding commitment and the renewal of the preliminary development agreement with AECOM. Ramsey County manager Ryan O’Connor said the funding demonstrates to developers and to state lawmakers the county’s commitment to seeing the entire RiversEdge project through. “This puts us in a place of readiness where we have not been before,” he said.

County Board chair Trista MatasCastillo agreed, calling the county’s allocation for the park “historic.”

The $26 million is part of the new preliminary development agreement the county approved on December 20 with AECOM. It continues the development relationship and sets specific benchmarks for the developer and county to meet as they proceed toward a final development agreement.

The Park at RiversEdge would be part of the city’s proposed River Balcony, a 1.5-mile promenade along the Mississippi River bluff in downtown. Planning for the balcony has continued through the pandemic. It is seen as a connection between public spaces, civic landmarks, development sites and the river.

Park construction was originally scheduled to start in the fall of 2022, with completion in 2024. No new timeline has been announced.

RiversEdge is expected to  include two residential towers with first-floor retail space and another two towers with more retail, entertainment and hospitality space. The county earlier spent $17 million clearing the property to make way for the development. The project is expected to yield more than $15 million a year in new property tax revenue.

Planning for RiversEdge has been in the works for years. County commissioners met this fall, including in a closed session, to discuss how to move forward. AECOM has been the chosen developer for four years, succeeding the original developer.

Commissioners had hoped to finalize the development agreement in fall 2021, with final design and engineering last year.

— Jane McClure


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