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St. Paul kicks off yearlong process to put vision for 17-mile riverfront into plan for action

St. Paul's vision for its riverfront can be boiled down to six words: "More natural. More urban. More connected."

Now the city is taking the next 12 months to solidify that vision into a master plan for parks and open spaces for 17 miles along the Mississippi River--with an eye toward economic development as well.

But St. Paul has been studying its riverfront for years. Will a new master plan make anything happen?

Craig Coronato of Denver-based Wenk Associates says "quick successes" are possible.

"They have had a long process and identified a vision," says Coronato. "The people of St. Paul want to see that transformed into real things."

Coronato, an esteemed landscape architect who has worked for 28 years on rivers and cities (including some in China), says tapping new sources of funds could also help spur action.

Exactly what kinds of things St. Paulites want to see is a key question that Coronato's firm--as well as a local firm, Hoisington Koegler Group, and the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation department--is seeking to discover. They kicked off a yearlong process of citizen engagement Tuesday with a citywide meeting at Harriet Island, with more workshops, neighborhood gatherings, and another citywide meeting to come.

Is there an inherent contradiction in trying to be both more natural and more urban? Coronato acknowledges "some tension" but says the key lies in the last aim: "More connected."

"How do you look at the interface between the natural and the urban, and make it better?" he asks, rhetorically. "They're not mutually exclusive."

Source: Craig Coronato, Wenk Associates
Writer: Chris Steller
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