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Video: Fly through St. Paul’s new River Balcony park (model)

Ever since New York City reclaimed an unused elevated freight rail structure and called it the High Line, it seems every city in the nation wants theirs. That fact has gotten one of the main designers of the High Line, James Corner Field Operations, a lot of work — including to design Minneapolis’ rebuild of Nicollet Mall.

Now comes St. Paul. City planners make reference to the High Line in presenting their vision for what is being called the River Balcony. The linear park that would hug the side of the bluff from the Science Museum of Minnesota to Union Depot is a significant element of the Great River Passage master plan for the city’s 26 miles of riverfront.

One purpose is to establish a visual — and in a few cases a physical — connection between the city and the river. The long-term idea is to incorporate the balcony into projects as they are built. The first will be the Custom House renovation into a hotel and apartments. The Exeter Group is designing that project to tie into the River Balcony at its fourth floor level.

The next opportunity could come with redevelopment of the Ramsey County government center and jail, which are in the midst of being demolished before the land is offered to developers.

An open house Thursday at Union Depot gave the first public look at plans developed jointly by the city and the University of Minnesota Metropolitan Design Center. The open house included a table-top model of the plan as well as a 3D digital model. Mayor Chris Coleman said funding for the plan isn’t yet in hand but said, “It is very likely pieces of it will happen and hopefully soon.” The purpose of showing the plans so far is to “capture imaginations.”

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