Building a stronger Midway

The year ahead in the Midway


By the time you read this, there’s a good chance if you had a New Year’s resolution you have already abandoned it. Or if you’re like me, you sometimes wait a few weeks to start the resolution (mostly out of procrastination). But in addition to resolutions, January is a good time to look at the year ahead. Here are some news stories to watch for in 2024.
The New Council. There’s almost always some change in a city council following an election year, but this year is especially a year of change as four the seven councilmembers chose not to run for reelection. Anika Bowie (Ward 1), Saura Jost (Ward 3), Hwa Jeong Kim (Ward 5), and Cheniqua Johnson (Ward 7) are all starting their first terms as Russel Balenger, Chris Tolbert, Amy Brendmoen and Jane Prince stepped down. Council veteran Ward 4 City Councilmember Mitra Jalali is now Council President.
One of the big final pieces of legislation passed by the “old” council was in support of the United Village development near Allianz Field. A couple highlights in phase 1 are public spaces: the sculpture park and a fully inclusive playground. The sculpture park will feature a giant loon, which could become iconic in a similar way as the cherry spoon. The playground is the first fully inclusive playground in Saint Paul. Phase 1 also includes a hotel, office and retail space. (Read story starting on front page for more information.)
Staying at the Snelling/University intersection, the CVS site remains vacant. Will 2024 be the year we see new activity? What will happen to the old Fasika site?
Heading east down University Avenue to the State Capitol, the next Legislative Session will begin Feb. 12. Unlike the Saint Paul City Council, 2023 was not an election year and mostly the same legislators are back (thankfully one change is the state flag, as we retire the racist and boring old one). A lot of new legislators were elected in 2022 which led to a massive amount of legislation passed in 2023. Will 2024 be a year to work on their secondary goals? Will they clean up any of the legislation passed last year? Last session, I was happy to see funding approved for the Promise Act, which will help businesses in areas most impacted by civil unrest in 2020. This includes a big portion of University Avenue, meaning several local businesses should get support. The application process for grants opens in the first quarter of 2024 and are available through the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC).
Anniversaries are a time to reflect on the history of an institution or project. With an opening date of June 2014, the Green Line turns 10 this year (and the Blue Line opened June 2004 meaning the Twin Cities have had light rail for 20 years). What will be said of its legacy? The Green Line consistently reached its ridership goals after it opened, though lost many riders during COVID-19 (like transit throughout the country). Without question, a lot of development has occurred along the Green Line and especially near station stops. But how many are taking advantage of the transit line? While there’s a perception of crime associated with the Green Line, it was reported in November that crime dropped 33% over the past six months on all Metro Transit operations. The drop has been tied to more visibility from law enforcement, part of the Metro Transit’s Safety & Security Action Plan.
The inevitable ebb and flow of businesses will result in some old favorites closing but also making way for new places to try and embrace. Will more mixed-use development see retail space on their ground floor? One expansion and relocation I’m very excited about it is when Udo’s Market moves to the old Hardware Hank site on Snelling and not only expands the grocery selection, but also opens a West African restaurant.
Whether or not you’ve made (and potentially broken) resolutions, make a point to try the new attractions in the neighborhood this year, and try an old one that’s new to you. The Midway is walkable, and getting your steps in is a great way to find new places you’d otherwise miss as you whizz by in a car. This year, let’s find new things to appreciate and love in the Midway.


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