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Landing on Broadway

It's been 19 years since anyone took Broadway Avenue in St. Paul Park seriously.

Now, there's a groundswell of enthusiasm building to give the 119-year-old street a new look and new life.

City Council members Steve Hunstad and Sandi Dingle are leading a campaign to beautify Broadway Avenue and also attract new business to the area.

"Broadway will be the gateway to new communities, and right now it looks old and tired," Dingle said.

"There's not much to attract people to stop on Broadway," said Sandy Edwards, owner of Curves, which is located on Broadway. "We need a reason for new families to shop here on their way home."

Many of Edward's customers agree with her. They want to see the avenue revitalized, new businesses brought in and the whole area beautified.

"We need a rally point," Edwards said.

Approximately 300 single- and multi-family units have been completed or are still under construction in seven new developments along Main Street and 10th and Pullman avenues, and one on Pleasanton Avenue between 10th and Seventh avenues.

Also in the wings is the multi-year development, known as River's Edge, proposed for newly annexed property just south of the city. That project is expected to begin in 2007. As a result, the city's population is projected to double in the next 10 years.

Hunstad met recently with Kristina Smitten from MFRA, the city's engineering firm, to consider use of several small plots of land north of SuperAmerica.

The land immediately adjacent to SuperAmerica is owned by the city. Just across St. Paul Park Road and east of the railroad tracks is a second plot of land, which is owned by Marathon Petroleum Co. and zoned commercial.

"We also want to talk about other pieces of property on Broadway that might become available," Hunstad said. "How do we tie it all together?"

Smitten recommended the Planning Commission, City Council, and members of the community and business organizations from St. Paul Park and Newport and the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce meet in a workshop session to discuss the issue. That workshop is tentatively planned for September.

"We need a working group, we need to discover what TIF can be used for," Dingle said.

"These things are cyclic," said Mayor John Hunziker. "Maybe our time has rolled around again."

Hunziker was the mayor in 1987 when the last effort was made to improve the city's downtown area. At that time, the St. Paul Park Development Corp. had TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money to help with the project.

There's still TIF money available, Hunziker said, and that in part is motivating the City Council to take action.

"The City Council has asked our engineer to come up with several different design scenarios," Hunziker said. "The estimated cost at the moment is about $4 million for new curbs, gutters, pavement, lighting, landscaping, and possibly a center median.

"We don't have that kind of money. But the council will consider the various scenarios at the upcoming workshop."

In 1987, the St. Paul Park Development Corp. took an inventory of all the existing buildings on Broadway. It surveyed business owners to find out what kind of new business they would like to see on Broadway.

The group also had a revolving loan fund with a low interest rate for business people to use.

"As a result, we tore down 13 old buildings including a gasoline station, electronics shop, archery club and the Knights of Columbus Hall," Hunziker said. "With money from the revolving fund, three businesses expanded, and one upgraded and remodeled."

Those weren't the only changes.

"In addition, the Park on the River building was constructed, the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority moved in, work was done on the boat launch at Lions Levee Park, SuperMom's moved in, and a parking lot was built behind Carbone's Restaurant," he said. "It was at that time that the Heritage Days Festival was created. We wanted to bring people to the downtown area to show them what had been done. The festival was a rousing success ... then it all just went stagnant."