“It’s our front yard.” That’s how Amy Mino, executive director of Landmark Center and chair of the Rice Park Association, describes the importance of Rice Park to the city of Saint Paul, and that’s why she is so excited about the Rice Park Revitalization Project. In partnership with the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and the Saint Paul Garden Club, the Rice Park Association has begun a major redesign of the park.
Rice Park was dedicated in 1849 and has had only one major renovation. That was completed when the fountain and the Alonzo Hauser statue, The Source, were installed in 1965. The city made some improvements in 2000, and the Saint Paul Garden Club volunteers keep flower beds and plantings in shape, but with more people living downtown, use of the park is on the upswing, and the Rice Park Association feels the park is overdue for a major facelift.
The current revitalization has five stated goals:
- To preserve the sense of the park as an oasis in the midst of downtown by reinforcing the sense of enclosure which is a historic feature of the park.
- To create a welcoming and safe place for everyone.
- To upgrade the infrastructure, including improvements to electrical service for lights and events, and updating irrigation systems.
- To engage visitors through these changes and improvements and increase daily use of the park.
- To accommodate that increased use through better definition of spaces for large events and more conversational seating.
Some of the improvements are intended to better define and unify the space. There will be sidewalk “bumpouts” at all four corners of the park to help calm traffic at the crosswalks, and more specifically designed entry ways for pedestrians. There’s going to be a new pathway from Market Street to Washington Street. Perimeter seating along Fifth Street will define one side of the garden area at that end of the park.
Along the Fourth Street side of the park, the Saint Paul Garden Club will maintain a seasonal display garden. New irrigation will be installed, and there will be a designated spot in the middle of the lawn for a decorated tree during the holidays.
Another goal of the renovation is to better utilize the park for events, such as concerts and weddings. To create a more usable space for those gatherings, there will be a central space, allowing that section to be set in various ways as a stage and seating area. Improvements to the electrical infrastructure will add power outlets in more convenient places, giving event organizers more options for setting up sound and lights.
Some of the infrastructure improvements are being done to support a safer, as well as a more inviting, environment in the park. Lighting at key points along pathways, in the trees, around the plaza and even embedded in the walkways is intended to make the space feel more welcoming and better defined.
Many features of the park will stay the same. The statue of F. Scott Fitzgerald is going to remain just where it stands, and the fountain will not be moved or changed. And while some trees and plantings will be moved or refocused, the linden trees along the diagonal pathways will stay. Some new trees will be added along the plaza around the fountain.
The timeline for the construction phase of the project is three to four months. The city of Saint Paul will handle the construction; half the donations for the project will come from the city, the other half will be through private donations. The projected cost of the revitalization, from design to completion, is about $2.4 million.
Learn more about the planned renovations of Rice Park at stpaul.gov.