St. Paul solicits new development for RiverCentre Ramp site

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman

In its recent solicitation, the city of St. Paul makes the river corridor and a potential river balcony (rendering above) a priority.

For the past few years, the city of St. Paul has been pursuing solutions to address serious structural and mechanical problems with its RiverCentre ramp. The city-owned ramp, which was originally constructed in 1970, is built into the river bluff adjacent to the Science Museum and the RiverCentre convention center.

In 2018 the ramp was closed for nearly six months after a large piece of concrete fell from the ceiling. At that time the city was pursuing state bonds to help cover the $116 million cost to demolish and rebuild the ramp. The bonding request was unsuccessful, forcing the city to consider other solutions.

Now St. Paul has released an interesting development solicitation. In exchange for repairing or replacing the ramp, the city will award a developer the rights to build additional structures on the site above and/or adjacent to the ramp. While the solicitation welcomes a variety of development types, projects must complement the downtown riverfront neighborhood.

We were pleased to see that the solicitation makes prominent note of the need for all projects to comply with Critical Area rules and implement the river balcony vision from the city's Great River Passage Master Plan. 

Should both the RiverCentre and the nearby Riversedge projects advance to construction, the river balcony vision could come to life. This would strengthen the city's connection to the riverfront and provide a vibrant recreation and entertainment area for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The RiverCentre project is in a very preliminary phase, so many questions about the potential development's design and cost are yet to be answered. We'll continue to track this project and share updates with you in the River Corridor blog.