James Corner Field Operations along with team of local firms selected by City, Great River Passage Conservancy to design transformative river promenade in downtown Saint Paul

The Great River Passage Conservancy and the City of Saint Paul today announced that they have selected James Corner Field Operations to design the River Balcony – a 1.5-mile-long promenade on downtown Saint Paul’s river bluff along Kellogg Boulevard between Eagle and Sibley streets. The New York-based urban design and landscape architecture firm previously designed the High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets in Manhattan’s West Side; the first phase of The Underline, a 10-mile-long linear park and urban trail in Miami; and 1.5 miles of Seattle’s Central Waterfront.

“Realizing transformative projects like the River Balcony will further spark economic development, attract new residents, workers and businesses, and improve community health and well-being,” said Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “I look forward to seeing this incredible vision come to life for Saint Paul and our entire region.”

In March 2021, the City and Conservancy released a request for proposals for the schematic design and vision for the River Balcony; estimates of capital costs and long-term maintenance and operations; a construction phasing plan; year-round community engagement programming and public art opportunities; the identification of partner roles and responsibilities; and a funding strategy. Twelve proposals from firms across the United States were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of ten members representing Saint Paul institutions and two design professionals.

Engagement and schematic design will begin mid-September, with the final design, cost estimates, phasing, and partner roles and responsibilities determined and delivered by June 2022.

“We are passionate about the potential of this site, with its great legacy and impressive scale, and its capacity for transformation as a powerful connector between parks, civic landmarks, private development, people and the river,” said Lisa Switkin, senior principal at Field Operations. “We can’t wait to get to work with the Saint Paul community.”

About the project team

James Corner Field Operations will partner with several local firms on engagement, including Forecast Public Art, Claim Our Space and 106 Group, who will equitably engage the general public on initial concepts and final design, as well as work directly with the four Dakota tribes and local native communities to ensure their voice is reflected in the final concept. SEH will also be providing engineering support, and HR&A will provide maintenance and operations planning, partnerships and programming, and governance expertise.

River-focused development efforts accelerate

Other development and public works projects are also planned and underway along the length of the proposed River Balcony, such as Ramsey County’s RiversEdge – an $800 million, public-private development on Kellogg Boulevard that will include a nine-acre public park descending over the railroad and Shepard Road to the Mississippi River’s edge. The project team will collaborate with Ramsey County and other development partners to integrate the River Balcony into their plans and designs.

“Ramsey County has long been invested in developing this area, and the work is accelerating as evidenced by this incredible announcement by the City and Conservancy,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter. “We look forward to engaging the community in partnership with the City as we design a once-in-a-lifetime public space that will benefit generations to come.”

About the Great River Passage Initiative

The River Balcony is one of three capital projects being led by the City and Conservancy as part of the Great River Passage Initiative, aimed at reconnecting Saint Paul’s two greatest assets: its people and the Mississippi River. In 2013, the City adopted the Great River Passage Master Plan, which outlined the three key projects: the River Learning Center, the River Balcony and the East Side River District. To support this work, the City partners with the Great River Passage Conservancy as the Initiative’s independent nonprofit fundraising and advocacy arm.

“As a capital city on the banks of the Mississippi, the Great River Passage truly aims to make Saint Paul the River Capital,” said Mary deLaittre, executive director of the Great River Passage Conservancy. “The River Balcony will act as a catalyst and cement Saint Paul’s commitment to what our history, culture, and economy was built upon – our 17 miles of Mississippi river.”


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