ARTS WALK WABASHA

by Amy Hyatt-Blat | Apr 02, 2013
| 26 Comments

Summary:

Over 100 years ago, Saint Paul Capitol architect Cass Gilbert had a vision of a lively, connected downtown extending from the green lawn of the Capitol to the Mississippi River via Wabasha Street. To date,Gilbert’s dream has not been realized. The recent closing of Macy’s further adds to the challenge of realizing Wabasha’s potential vitality.

Wabasha Partners is mobilizing a change to transform Wabasha Street into ARTS WALK WABASHA,the city’s cultural Main Street. Wabasha will be a pedestrian and bike-friendly magnet for arts,culture and creative storefront businesses stretching from the Capitol to the Mississippi River.

ARTS WALK WABASHA isn’t just a nice idea–it’s a crucial piece of real estate that crosses and connects essential downtown neighborhoods. By 2014, the LRT will be bringing greater numbers of people into the heart of Saint Paul. The businesses and cultural assets that already exist on and around Wabasha are atomized and underutilized.ARTS WALK WABASHA will be the connective tissue that creates a cohesive sense of place.

Our plan for ARTS WALK WABASHA includes: 1)physical beautification improvements such as artfully designed electrical boxes, trash bins and the removal of the “The Skyway to Nowhere”, 2)a cultural passport program offering free and low-cost access to local stages and museums; 3)street-level multicultural performance programming including sidewalk mini-gazebo stages spotlighting local buskers and 4)a business culture development office that incentivizes local and creative entrepreneurs to revive Wabasha’s empty storefronts.

Regarding our entry name change, we appreciated the feedback from community experts and group conversations facilitated by the Forever Saint Paul Challenge. Through this process we learned the name "Wabasha Capitol River Strip" did not capture our artistic community vision. Wabasha Partners went back to the drawing board to rename and revise the initiative to ARTS WALK WABASHA.

About You

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About You

First Name

Amy

Last Name

Hyatt-Blat

City

Saint Paul

County

Ramsney

Country

United States, MN

Website (if you have one)

Names of others who helped contribute to my idea

Wabasha Partners

How did you hear about the Forever Saint Paul Challenge?

Minnesota Public Radio News

About Your Organization (if applicable)

Organization Name (if applicable)

Wabasha Partners

Organization Website

Organization Phone

Organization Address

City

Saint Paul

Organization Country

United States, MN

Your idea

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Title of your idea

ARTS WALK WABASHA

Give us the highlights of your idea for making Saint Paul great (2,000 characters maximum or approx. 250 words)

Over 100 years ago, Saint Paul Capitol architect Cass Gilbert had a vision of a lively, connected downtown extending from the green lawn of the Capitol to the Mississippi River via Wabasha Street. To date,Gilbert’s dream has not been realized. The recent closing of Macy’s further adds to the challenge of realizing Wabasha’s potential vitality.
Wabasha Partners is mobilizing a change to transform Wabasha Street into ARTS WALK WABASHA,the city’s cultural Main Street. Wabasha will be a pedestrian and bike-friendly magnet for arts,culture and creative storefront businesses stretching from the Capitol to the Mississippi River.
ARTS WALK WABASHA isn’t just a nice idea–it’s a crucial piece of real estate that crosses and connects essential downtown neighborhoods. By 2014, the LRT will be bringing greater numbers of people into the heart of Saint Paul. The businesses and cultural assets that already exist on and around Wabasha are atomized and underutilized.ARTS WALK WABASHA will be the connective tissue that creates a cohesive sense of place.
Our plan for ARTS WALK WABASHA includes: 1)physical beautification improvements such as artfully designed electrical boxes, trash bins and the removal of the “The Skyway to Nowhere”, 2)a cultural passport program offering free and low-cost access to local stages and museums; 3)street-level multicultural performance programming including sidewalk mini-gazebo stages spotlighting local buskers and 4)a business culture development office that incentivizes local and creative entrepreneurs to revive Wabasha’s empty storefronts.
Regarding our entry name change, we appreciated the feedback from community experts and group conversations facilitated by the Forever Saint Paul Challenge. Through this process we learned the name "Wabasha Capitol River Strip" did not capture our artistic community vision. Wabasha Partners went back to the drawing board to rename and revise the initiative to ARTS WALK WABASHA.

Website address (if applicable)

Innovation

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What makes your idea different or unexpected? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

ARTS WALK WABASHA is a complete turnaround project. Wabasha’s connective tissue is in poor condition. The abandoned “Skyway to Nowhere” hovering above Wabasha near 6th Street symbolizes broken dreams and urban blight. A $1 million investment will ignite a long-overdue metamorphosis.

ARTS WALK WABASHA already has amazing establishments in place for culture and creative significance with McNally Smith College of Music, The Amsterdam Bar and Hall, The Fitzgerald Theater and The Minnesota Children’s Museum, along with many others. However, its incredible potential is still unrealized. At the juncture of Macy’s departure and at the precipice of LRT coming in 2014, this is a chance to truly reinvent the corridor. We simply cannot wait any longer.

As part of our ongoing imagining process, we plan to research cities around the globe and explore new approaches to presenting performing arts on the street, together with visual components and incentives that attract creative storefront businesses.

Wabasha represents the very heart of downtown Saint Paul and the seedlings of its untapped potential are starting to germinate. Anyone who is paying attention can see that Wabasha is on the brink of something big. The May 2013 Love is the Law block party along EcoLab Plaza offered a glimpse of Wabasha’s evolutionary future – what the Star Tribune described as a “new epicenter of fun and acceptance for a diverse generation.” There’s no reason why a boisterous block party – a mix of local music, food trucks, and collective civic revelry – has to be an exception to the rule.”

The strength and breadth of our team cannot be underestimated. Wabasha Partners has created a movement that is attracting unlikely constellations of people to the table. And it’s those people—from the owner of Candyland to Fortune 500 executives from EcoLab to city planners to neighborhood residents who will invest the sweat equity to realize the dream of ARTS WALK WABASHA.

Impact

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This Entry is about (Issues)

How will your idea make a difference in Saint Paul? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

Wabasha Street connects two of Saint Paul’s most distinctive assets: the Mississippi River and our glorious State Capitol. ARTS WALK WABASHA will create an engaging, artistic walkway between these two landmarks that reimagines the downtown Saint Paul experience. You will know when ARTS WALK WABASHA has made an impact when visitors come to downtown Saint Paul and they leave telling everyone “You must go up and down Wabasha Street!”

Our multi-fold impact plan for ARTS WALK WABASHA includes:

1)Inspiration: artful physical upgrades along Wabasha including mini-gazebo sidewalk stages that are designed for non-amplified, multi-cultural expressions including acoustic musical experiences from guitars, voices and small instruments.

2)Welcoming: multilingual wayfinding that provides practical orientation

3)Housekeeping: the assurance of a clean updated street with modern furnishings along with the removal of “The Skyway to Nowhere” at 6th Street, a high-profile, long standing symbol of unfinished business.

4)Programming: a curated program of multi-cultural arts and engagement including a cultural passport voucher initiative offering free and low-cost access to the cultural assets that already exist along Wabasha including The Fitzgerald Theater, McNally Smith College of Music, The History Theater and The Minnesota Children’s Museum.

5)Economy: a business culture development campaign that targets attracts and incentivizes creative local entrepreneurs who take pride in place and craft to revive Wabasha’s empty storefronts.

Our multifold plan will create a bustling street with unique and colorful small businesses attracting locals and visitors alike. ARTS WALK WABASHA will be a living, breathing work of art.

Sustainability

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Why do you think people will recognize or remember your idea after it comes to life? How might it inspire others to do something similar in their community? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

Cass Gilbert’s vision to connect the State Capitol to the Mississippi River is naturally powerful. Long before anyone ever coined the term “placemaking”, Gilbert was on to something. Recent studies like the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community survey show that people fall in love with places that are aesthetically compelling, where they can experience a sense of welcoming and openness and also feast on robust social offerings. We believe that with an infusion of love and cash investment, ARTS WALK WABASHSA can realize this potential.

The ARTS WALK WABASHA idea is big. A $1 million grant will serve as a catalyst in the community that attracts new investors and more cultural interest. The Forever Saint Paul Challenge award will initiate the crucial support for true change.

Our collective strengths will create a unique, hip, and enlivening cultural corridor reminiscent of places like State Streeet in Madison and Sixth Street in Austin. This one-mile connection of visual and performing arts, culture and local creative retail will make every block an essential and meaningful destination for all who visit downtown Saint Paul.

From Crowne Plaza to Walgreens, over 40 organizations attend Wabasha Partners’ monthly meetings to participate in grassroots stewardship. Wabasha Partners has equal doses of dedication and inspiration to make this effort work-and work well.

We are seeking to transform not just the physicality of Wabasha – but the intangible experience of how people feel when they’re on Wabasha. ARTS WALK WABASHA will celebrate the basic human experience of feeling proud and connected to a real sense of place and community.

ARTS WALK WABASHA will demonstrate that an under-stewarded slice of a city can be turned around when a grassroots collective bands together to make a change. It will serve as a grand example for other community groups to recognize underappreciated or disconnected assets in their own backyards.

Additonal Questions

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For your idea, what does success look like? (4000 characters, approx. 500 words)

Success for ARTS WALK WABASHA means different things to different groups.

For the public: Success means a destination where people can experience the joys of an artistic one-mile meander combined with soulful local retail, exciting restaurants, venues for entertainment and fresh cultural events. We’ll know it’s successful when the public is telling its own stories of a great experience on Wabasha Street.

For property managers: Success means low vacancy rates.

For the downtown hotels: Success means giving visitors a reason to stay, linger, walk, bike, connect, be inspired by art and performance, spend money and be delighted at locally-owned businesses. It will serve our city to inspire these visitors to return again and again and recommend downtown Saint Paul to friends and colleagues.

For downtown residents: Success means feeling safe and proud of where they live. It means getting goods and services quickly and conveniently. It means shopping at local businesses and being on a first-name basis with the people who work there. It means living on a street where they can stroll and enjoy fresh visual and musical art with their neighbors in public gathering places such as the Farmer’s Market at 7th Place, Ecolab Plaza, Kellogg Park and the State Capitol lawn.

For business owners: Success means a thriving, beautiful street teeming with customers and community. It means collaborating on projects, music festivals, parades and live arts programming together with neighbors. We place a high value on joint efforts that promote the profile of the street and foster an atmosphere alive with food, arts, music and living history.

For commuters: Success will translate into thousands of LRT riders detraining on Cedar Street and walking one block north to ARTS WALK WABASHA - a must see, must-experience arts and creative destination. For commuters taking the bus home or driving down Wabasha, ARTS WALK WABASHA will be an egress artery where can feel safe and take pride.

For downtown Saint Paul: Success means elevating Wabasha to the stewardship standard of surrounding neighborhoods like Rice Park and Lowertown. It means cultivating ARTS WALK WABASHA to complement, not compete with, these other areas. We are all a part of the connective tissue of downtown Saint Paul.

We have a real opportunity with ARTS WALK WABASHA because we have a real problem on Wabasha. Wabasha currently stands out as ignored and underperforming and it sits smack dab in the center of downtown Saint Paul, geographically anchored by city government on one end and state government on the other. In order for Wabasha to thrive as a connective arts and local business artery, we need to come together. In the past, we hoped that magic bullets like a big Macy’s development would solve our problems. Now we need to be our own solution.

Cass Gilbert had a big dream and now it is time for us to be good and proper stewards of that dream. Come and dream with us. “You’re heading to Saint Paul? Well then you’ve gotta go to Wabasha!”

What are the top three things that would likely need to happen in the first year to get your idea started? (4000 characters, approx. 500 words)

1)Think Big: continue with the imagining process that invites community ideas and considerations as we visualize the best experience possible. This process will include active websites, social media, public forums and incredible collaborations.

2)Get Serious: hire a director of cultural and community advancement. S/he will develop arts programming along Wabasha. The position will be responsible for creating timelines, budgets and working with stakeholders to curate, invite and create business incentives that attract storefront food and retail entrepreneurs. The director will also be responsible for the grant and development sustainability of ARTS WALK WABASHA.

3) Take Action: This is where the Wabasha Partners come to life. Our grassroots group is ready to take on committee appointments and work with partners including city officials, business leaders, downtown residents and cultural experts and be accountable for this high profile transformational initiative.

ARTS WALK WABASHA has the following activities planned:

June 10 – Welcome Lunch - Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Graves Hospitality, Harriet Island, 11:30 AM– 1:30 PM

Members of Wabasha Partners will attend a lunch organized by Greater Saint Paul BOMA and Visit Saint Paul to give a big “Wabasha Welcome” to our new neighbors.

June 11 – Wabasha Partners Meeting, featuring speaker Brian Pease, Fitzgerald Theater, 3:30 – 5:00 PM

Brian Pease, Minnesota State Capitol Site Manger will lead a discussion that will give insight to Cass Gilbert’s original vision and speak to previous and future events on the capitol grounds.

ARTS WALK WABASHA Wednesdays

For seven Wednesdays this summer, ARTS WALK WABASHA activities will be scheduled over the noon hour to collect input and ideas from the public.

June 12, July 3, July 10, July 17, July 31 – Clean and Dream Team; 11:30 – 1:30 – Meet at EcoLab Plaza

Volunteers in cheery yellow ARTS WALK WABASHA t-shirts will head up Clean and Dream activities, collecting input and ideas as well as garbage on the street.

June 19 - ARTS WALK WABASHA Public Pub Talk, 4-5:30 pm, Amsterdam Bar and Hall

Wabasha Partners invite all who work, play, live and love the hell out of Saint Paul to dream with us. Be part of the imagining process to make Wabasha an essential destination for locals and visitors alike.

June 26 - Walk Wabasha Wednesday, Noon, meet at EcoLab Plaza

Join your Wabasha neighbors for a brisk, 40-minute group walk from the Capitol to the river. Enjoy fresh air and exchange fresh ideas.

July 9 – Wabasha Partners Meeting – 3:30 – 5:00 pm – Fitzgerald Theater

July 24 - ARTS WALK WABASHA BLOCK PARTY, 11:30 am – 1pm

Come out of the cubicles! Free food from Wabasha businesses while supplies last at various spots along Wabasha. Picture a stilt walking troupe high above the crowds and hula hoop stations with McNally Smith College of Music musicians performing in various locations. We’re going to have a helluva good time.

Check us out…
Facebook – ARTS WALK WABASHA
Twitter - @ArtsWalkWabasha

Which organizations, groups, and/or people might be involved in implementing your idea? Why do you think they would be a good fit? (4000 characters, approx. 500 words)

ARTS WALK WABASHA is the brainchild of Wabasha Partners – a dedicated group of residents, city planners, entrepreneurs, businesses, and arts/civic organizations who share the common goal of making Wabasha Street a thriving destination for arts, culture, and community. Our ranks hail from EcoLab, The Fitzgerald Theater, Metro Transit, Fuji Ya, Church of Scientology, Walgreens, St. Paul Smart Trips, Unilev Property Management, Subway, McNally Smith College of Music, residents of the Lowry, Minnesota Children’s Museum, Candyland, and so many more.

Wabasha Partners has been meeting monthly for fifteen months. Participation at our meetings is swelling as word spreads about our work together.

At the end of the day, our committed team is our greatest strength. Other groups – from government to developers - have tried to solve the Wabasha problem. As we are learning across this country, it’s the neighborhood that carries the idea, ambition and follow-through that will ultimately make the greatest places of all. These efforts can be insurmountable without the help of great institutions. The partnership between a neighborhood group and a foundation can create a legacy of change if the formula is just right. ARTS WALK WABASHA has the vision, the energy and the real problem to be solved. Wabasha Partners has the grit to exceed everybody’s expectations.