Q & A With St. Paul Mayor Coleman on Plans for Downtown St. Paul

Updated: 04/09/2014 7:46 PM
Created: 04/08/2014 7:38 PM
By: Brandi Powell

 tThere's a big plan for the smaller of the Twin Cities - but is it realistic?

KSTP's Brandi Powell sat down with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to ask.

He released his plan last month that includes several big projects. First, the 7 Corners Gateway site would become a mix of hotel, retail, and courtyard that could compliment events at the Xcel Energy Center and RiverCentre. Plus, plans for a mixed-use development at Ramsey County Government Center West.

Also, the Macy's, Wabasha Court area would be a mixed-use of retail, entertainment, office, and housing.

Then there's the Central Station - Mayor Coleman thinks this development can happen surrounding the LRT Central Station, possibly over the top of it.

Powell spoke with several people who live or work in downtown St. Paul. They say they hope Mayor Coleman pushes for mixed-use projects that include retail.

For example, Jesse Suson who lives in downtown St. Paul said, "More retail shops would be really nice."

When Powell asked Laura Linroth, who works in downtown St. Paul, if she felt there are enough places in downtown St. Paul to go shopping she said, "no, not really. I'm sure there's the little expensive shops." The shops include Heimie's Haberdashery. It's a high-end retail store, and the spot where the mayor bought the suit he was wearing during KSTP's interview.

When asked about Macy's shutting down, and more affordable shopping, Mayor Coleman said, "We're open to every conversation but again what we can control is what's going on the street, and transportation, and those kinds of things."

Powell asked, "But are you actively courting those kinds of stores? Say, a Target or a Kohl's?" Mayor Coleman said, "Right, we're absolutely talking with developers about what clients they work with and who may be interested."

Mayor Coleman said, "There's a resurgence of interest in core cities like St. Paul that the private market is catching on with."

"Some people are skeptical that private retailers are actually going to say, 'Let's make downtown St. Paul our home,' unless there's some city-backed help," said Powell. Mayor Coleman said, "Well the reality is, retailers go where there are people."

David Brennan, Ph.D. is a Professor of Marketing and Co-Director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at University of St. Thomas. Brennan said, "Retail is not, and I doubt if it's going to be, a strength for downtown St. Paul." Brennan added, "It doesn't have the destination stores that people want to go to, and other places are increasingly convenient, and those are out in the suburbs."

Powell said to Mayor Coleman, "Some people are saying, 'We think Mayor Coleman's ideas are actually pretty great ideas, but they are not realistic. There's no money to do these things.'" Mayor Coleman responded, "That's kind of an old way of thinking about what's happening in downtown."

The mayor said developers have showed interest in the past week, including Opus, a heavyweight.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS will continue to closely follow these potential projects.

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