Roseville council sees vision plan for Rice and Larpenteur area


graphic courtesy of City of Roseville • Though redevelopment in the Rice Street/Larpenteur Avenue corridor will ultimately be market-driven, the vision plan calls for completely updating and revitalizing the area.

courtesy of Google Maps • Working together to revitalize the area, Roseville, Maplewood and St. Paul, along with Ramsey County, worked with consulting firm Perkins+Will to create a Rice Street/Larpenteur Avenue vision plan for the corridor. On March 12, Roseville city leaders had a look at it and its suggestions, and are seeking the public’s input on the plan.

graphic courtesy of City of Roseville • The Rice Street/Larpenteur Avenue vision plan sees the possibility of single-family homes and more dense housing at the former Minnesota National Guard armory site in Roseville off North McCarrons Boulevard.

The Roseville City Council got a look at a Rice Street/Larpenteur Avenue vision plan March 12 that could help guide the redevelopment of the intersection and the corridor in years to come.

A year in the making, the plan came out of a collaboration between Roseville, Maplewood and St. Paul, along with Ramsey County. The three cities converge at the intersection; Roseville is to the northwest of it; Maplewood to the northeast; and St. Paul is to the south.

The area has long been the target of improvement. Complaints about crime are common, safe pedestrian crossings of the major roads are few and the corridor is dominated by strip malls and large, typically empty asphalt parking lots.

 

Working together

John Slack, a landscape architect from Perkins+Will, the consulting firm brought on by the cities to develop the vision plan, presented the lengthy document to council members.

Slack said the project was both fantastic and challenging, with the most difficult part being the coordination of communication between all the different jurisdictions involved.

A number of different advisory groups were involved in drafting the plan, he said, and a number of community events, including three pop-up meetings and three workshops, along with interviews with business owners in the corridor and developers helped inform the plan.

Some of the main ideas contained in the plan include improvements to Lake McCarrons County Park; improving walkability and pedestrian safety throughout the corridor, which would include the creation of a Marion Street greenway; and making the area greener and more sustainable overall.

 

What could be

Redevelopment is another big piece of the plan.

“In the long term, if redevelopment does happen,” Slack said, “this document really guides what the potential of some of those redevelopments might be.”

While the plan offered specific concepts for a number of sites in the corridor, Slack added, the recommendations were interchangeable for many of the sites throughout.

For example, the former Minnesota National Guard armory site at 211 N. McCarrons Blvd. could become a mix of single-family homes and high-density housing, a plan that’s been shared with developers by Roseville city staff.

There could be wholesale change at the strip mall area that houses the My Thrift Store and the Lamplighter Lounge strip club in St. Paul, Slack said.

Eliciting laughs from the council, he said the mall is “a really underutilized parcel with maybe some land uses that don’t positively influence or inform the community — is that a nice way to say it?”

Slack said the site could be redeveloped into a mixed-use area with retail and housing; in the shorter term the mall’s expansive parking lot could be turned into more of a public space, used for farmers’ markets or as a gathering place for food trucks.

The vision plan calls for reducing Rice Street and Larpenteur Avenue from four to three lanes, and, where sections of the roadway are wide enough, taking the shoulder from the road and turning it into part of the sidewalk.

The plan also focuses on the area’s character and built form, Slack said, with an emphasis on greening the corridor. One way this could play out is at the Dairy Queen off Rice in Roseville. With landscaping and a reduction in the number of driveways it has, the area could become more of a park-like setting.

 

Safer crossing

The vision plan comes with a number of recommendations, including that cities add it to their comprehensive plans, which guide land use and zoning and can only be changed by council action; form a Rice-Larpenteur Development Collaborative with an ongoing focus on the corridor; and concerted effort to improve biking, walking and transit throughout the area.

Council member Bob Willmus said he was wary of installing the vision plan into the city’s comprehensive plan, but Kari Collins, the city’s community development director, assured him that if it were included, it would only be mentioned with none of its specific plans.

Willmus stressed that he wanted to see improved pedestrian crossings — many council members raised concerns about students crossing Larpenteur to get to the Community School of Excellence, a K-8 Hmong language and cultural school on the St. Paul side of the street.

Council member Tammy McGehee said she liked the sustainability measures included in the plan and wanted to see similar green space and water-quality improving elements carried throughout the city. 

“It is a wonderful plan if we can keep it on the front burner and keep working on it,” she said.

Council member Jason Etten concurred with her, saying the vision plan is a very useful document, but it could also end up being “a bunch of paper with pretty pictures.” Still, he said, “Every time I look at those pictures I say, ‘Oh, that’s so much better.’”

 

More feedback

Future county-led reconstruction projects on Rice Street could be the first way that elements of the vision plan are implemented, and Willmus said other parts of the plan, like the Marion greenway, could be a good jumping-off point for the city.

Council member Lisa Laliberte pumped the breaks on adopting the plan that night — she said March 12 was her first time looking at it — and called for more community engagement now that the vision plan is a finished product.

Mayor Dan Roe also said the city could use more public feedback on the plan, and pointed out it was not intended to force people out of the area or to disrupt lives.

“What we want this to be is a place where people who live there already want to stay, and that other people want to join them,” he said. 

The city has $800,000 worth of tax increment financing money that could be used to implement parts of the plan on city land, Roe said, noting St. Paul also has potential funding for work and that Maplewood is looking to set aside money as well.

“Not only do we have the vision, and we’ve got the momentum and support, but we have some resources that we can actually put to this,” he said.

Slack noted that he presented the plan to the St. Paul Planning Commission and that it recommended modifications to it before the St. Paul City Council took it up. Also on March 12, the Maplewood City Council unanimously approved inclusion of the Rice/Larpenteur vision plan in its comprehensive plan.

The Roseville Council took no action on the plan, but will revisit it in coming months once it receives more community feedback.

To view the plan for yourself, go to www.ramseycounty.us/your-government/projects-initiatives and click on the “Rice-Larpenteur Gateway Area Vision Plan” link. To share your thoughts with the city, go to www.cityofroseville.com.


 

– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813

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