Planning begins for update, renovation of St. Paul’s historic Rice Park

St. Paul officials are beginning to look at ways to renovate Rice Park, the popular downtown gathering place that sits amidst some of the city’s most historic buildings.

The St. Paul Garden Club has raised $46,000 for use in planning how the park can be updated. It will be used, city officials say, to start the planning process, which will include lots of “community engagement.”

The square-block park dates back to 1894, and is bordered by the downtown library, the Ordway, Landmark Center and the St. Paul Hotel. The city likes to call it one of the most beautiful urban squares in the country.

(I once called it one of the “world’s loveliest urban spaces” in my Star Tribune column, and promptly received skeptical responses: “Haven’t you ever been to Rome? London? Paris?”)

Still, it’s a wonderul setting. With so much use and lots of renovation going on all around it, though, many think it’s time for some updating.

Garden Club member Betsy Kelly said in a statement: “Years of hosting more events, bringing more and more visitors into the park has taken a toll. Now is the time to revitalize Rice Park.”

The city says “new pressures on the park warrant a fresh look at the layout, internal circulation, connections between key landmarks surrounding the park, maintenance practices, and additional ways to support activities in the park.”

So here’s the plan, according to the city:

The initial step in the process will be the development of a conceptual plan for the park. This includes a community engagement process, development of goals and a vision for the park, with a focus on programming, sustainability, and beautification. The final product will be conceptual layout and plan for the entire park that will provide enough detail on implementation of the plan for an initial cost estimate and phasing.

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