Thursday, May 20, 2010

1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back for St. Paul's Downtown

St. Paul has the potential to be great, I currently just think it is good. As with all economic development it seems that we have to give a lot to gain a little. Downtown St. Paul has been struggling for years to create a vibrant street life (day and night). What is ironic about this is that downtown St. Paul is at a great pedestrian scale already, near the River, and has some excellent parks. The city wants to move forward with extending some outside seating on one of the main streets that has some great places to eat and drink. The problem, well this will mean the loss of parking and a $270,000 assessment to the building owners - 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

From the Pioneer Press article:

The proposal calls for adding 8 feet to the current 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the north side of Sixth Street between Sibley and Wacouta streets, allowing space for about 25 more tables on the block's patios. Instead of four lanes, Sixth Street would narrow to three lanes, including one for bike and bus traffic. All metered parking on the block would be eliminated.

The Central Corridor project already does away with six of the parking meters that provide $6,000 in annual revenue; extending the sidewalk would mean losing another 16 meters, which bring in $20,000 annually. If the proposal goes through, Bulldog's current outdoor seating would double to 10 tables. Barrio would triple its outdoor space, with seating for 36. Bin, which currently has no outdoor seating, would get room for 14 customers to sit outside. A vacant fourth space on the block could get space for 16 customers. Chuck Repke, a consultant hired by the block's building owners, said Illinois-based Bar Louie has been in talks for that space.

Although no one so far has opposed the idea of more patio dining space on the block, critics say seasonal decking paid for by landlords would be a better option than extending the sidewalk, so the city doesn't risk unforeseen construction costs and losing meter revenue.

Loss of revenue? Adding outdoor seating would add value to the street, neighborhood, and the downtown buildings that front it. This could create a great asset now, and down the line, and would also increase tax revenue. It is called successful commercial economic development.

Call it radical, but what if we closed that block off entirely on Thursday and Friday nights? Might just be a revolution starting in Downtown St. Paul. This investment has the potential to bring in a lot more than $20,000 in revenue in taxes alone, not to mention all the non-revenue benefits it would create.


charlie said...

What's the revenue on increased food and bar tabs for the same area?

That surely cuts the $20k "loss" down to size. Besides, where do those cars go if they aren't on the street? To other meters or city ramps?

The story doesn't paint the whole picture.

Unknown said...

The real issue is that the building owners don't mind 270k assessment for a permanent sidewalk. They can just pass on that cost to their tennants while they get the permanent increase in property value. Sure tennant restaurants would like the patios, but how much revenue does it bring them when it's only open for 4-5 months?