I once wrote in a Star Tribune column that St. Paul’s Rice Park is one of the greatest public spaces in the world. Many agreed, but some thought I was nuts. “Have you ever been to Paris?” someone asked.
I stand by my opinion that — flanked by the Ordway, the St. Paul Library, the historic St. Paul hotel and Landmark Center, and not far from the Mississippi River bluff — the park and its setting are world-class.
And today I feel some vindication hearing that the American Planning Association has named Rice Park one of the 10 Great Public Spaces in the country.
Notes the APA:
Rice Park is a counterpoint to its busy surroundings. Its period lamps, statuary, benches, center fountain, and adjacent national landmark buildings lend a European feeling to the space. Trapezoidal in shape with two diagonal walkways, the park serves as much as a pathway and shortcut as it does a lunch stop, festival grounds, and outdoor sanctuary. Rice Park has undergone far-reaching changes since its establishment in 1849, when Minnesota was still a territory.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman agrees, saying in a statement:
“There is no place quite like Rice Park anywhere else in the nation. Nestled among big buildings and a hub of activity, Rice Park gives visitors a sense of calm and a unique ‘green’ retreat not normally found in an urban center. It’s no surprise to us that others have taken notice, and I’m proud that Rice Park has achieved this recognition.”