Award Winning Multicultural Doll Collection
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman touched on potholes, internships for low-income teens and the new Central Corridor light-rail line Monday in his State of the City address, but the real show-stealer was his venue — the $14 million Arlington Hills Community Center.
The mayor gave his annual speech at the new 41,000-square-foot complex, which combines a library, athletic center and community gathering space at Payne and Maryland avenues.
The center, which officially opens May 22, is an example of the city’s commitment to evolving to fit future needs, he said.
“Almost a decade in the making, this center is a $14 million investment in the future of the East Side and its families,” Coleman said.
“What was once a corner anchored by a small hardware store and an obsolete 1970s-era rec center will soon be a center of innovative learning and youth development.”
Based in part on a consultant’s recommendations, Coleman’s administration has pushed the concept of operating fewer rec centers citywide, but with many more amenities and a modern design.
City council members, including council President Kathy Lantry, have resisted the idea and pledged to do their best to keep their neighborhood rec centers open, though some have already closed or lost programming.
The mayor barely mentioned the council members in his speech.
Finishing touches on the Arlington Hills complex are expected to take several more weeks. The building, which includes a gym and youth technology center, is nearly three times the combined size of the old rec center (6,485 square feet) and the Arlington Hills Carnegie library (7,900 square feet).
The city is renting the Carnegie library to a nonprofit run by a Macalester College labor historian who hopes to assemble private collections recognizing East Side, labor and immigrant history in St. Paul.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman gives his State of the City address at the to-be-completed Arlington Hills Community Center in St. Paul on Monday, March 31, 2014. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Council member Dan Bostrom, who represents the neighborhood, said he still is asking the city to consider changing the center’s name to the Herb Brooks Miracle Center, after the legendary hockey coach who was born on the East Side.
The mayor’s speech also highlighted a new $200,000 grant that will be used to aid a citywide expansion of last summer’s youth violence prevention program. Neighborhood House, St. Paul Youth Services and the nonprofit group 180 Degrees will join Parks and Rec and the city library system to “do both outreach and intervention, talking to teens and stopping gang affiliations before they start,” the mayor said.
Coleman said Robin Hickman, CEO and president of SoulTouch Productions, has been meeting with minority youths on the East Side, mostly African-American teens, to help them document their experiences and visions for a better city.
The anti-violence efforts follow several tumultuous youth gatherings on the East Side last summer. Vincent Allison, 17, was shot to death during a street brawl in July, and Ray Widstrand was nearly beaten to death Aug. 4.
Coleman also touted the city’s “Right Track” summer job and internship program, which matches teenagers with parks and rec or library jobs, or with internships with private employers. A similar effort dubbed Sprockets aims to place younger students in summer and after-school programs.
State of the City
The mayor had much to say on potholes, too. In the short term, he has directed the Department of Public Works to recall laid-off street maintenance workers to help fill as many holes as possible.
A long-term solution would require more than $70 million to rebuild the worst 20 streets alone, he said. As president of the National League of Cities, Coleman said, he would urge Congress to invest more money in road and transportation infrastructure projects nationwide.
He renewed his call for the redevelopment of the 1916 Palace Theatre off Wabasha Street downtown and pledged to make the city nationally competitive in terms of its artistic and cultural offerings.
In a video montage, a member of the St. Paul-based rap group Heiruspecs said his band was hard-pressed to find an appropriate performance venue in the city when its members formed the group as teens in 1997. That’s changed considerably, he said, and they’ll release an album April 22 at downtown’s Amsterdam Bar and Hall.
In Lowertown, “historic buildings once housing manufacturing are now home to artists and others filled with a passion for urban living,” Coleman said.
“New bars and restaurants are filled each night, and soon the regional ballpark will draw thousands more to downtown on a warm summer evening.”
He noted that the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library launched the #BecauseOfThe Library awareness campaign on Twitter and other social media Monday, and the Barely Brothers vinyl record store opened on Raymond Avenue in advance of light rail’s debut.
The mayor touted downtown development and projects such as the Metropolitan Council’s Central Corridor light-rail line, which opens in 10 weeks, as well as the future 7,000-seat regional ballpark.
On Friday, a business task force assembled by the mayor’s office after Coleman’s State of the City address in 2013 unveiled concept drawings for four development sites in downtown St. Paul, including the vacant Macy’s store.
The drawings, which do not have specific development firms attached to them, were well received by downtown developers such as Jim Stolpestad, who said by email Monday that they were “exactly what the city and private sector should be doing to promote downtown development.”
Council member Dave Thune, who represents downtown, said the city was on the right track, especially with the possibility of a convention center hotel.
Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at twitter.com/FrederickMelo See original article.