I’ve been living in downtown Saint Paul for about 8 years and I believe it’s in a unique position to become a walkable and more bike-friendly city. The biggest complaint from business owners and city officials is that Saint Paul has class B and C commercial property. Large corporations want to locate their workforce at Class A commercial real estate in order to attract talent. So in order for downtown to be an economic engine, most of the buildings would need to be replaced by new and modern Class A commercial buildings. I believe this isn’t necessarily true.
Since I’ve moved to downtown (aka Lowertown) five commercial buildings have been converted into housing, so the downtown is more densely populated than it ever has been over the last 40 years. Because of this change, the city now has a significant population that could sustain small businesses. Of course, living and biking downtown and watching Not Just Bikes and reading Strong Towns articles I really can see the potential that would actually make the downtown one of the most unique cities in the country.
What is disappointing to me is that City leadership views walking and biking as more of a recreational activity, so their focus is to add bike trails leading to nowhere and paint gutter bike lanes on major streets, where few people would like to ride their bikes, which fuels the argument that adding bike lanes is a waste of money.
In Saint Paul, this is an election year for the Mayor’s office and statewide (2022) ALL of the office's Reps, Senators, and the Governor’s office are up for grabs. As a community organizer, I see this as a great opportunity to change the mindset of leadership to move away from expanding infrastructure outward to investing in a more densely populated and sustainable infrastructure.
Does Strong Towns have a grassroots strategy this upcoming election season?