21.10.05

stp: phalen corridor opens up

I went for lunch the other day at Serlin’s CafĂ©, a classic restaurant on old Payne Avenue on Saint Paul’s East Side. Their pie is as good as ever, and I was talking with the one of the owner-family as I left about the any progress in improving the neighborhood. Right after I walked out the door, he came running out after me, and at first I thought I’d forgotten to pay or something.

“The street’s changing. It’s getting a lot more Mexican,” he said instead, and pointed to where an old community staple, a danish bakery, had become a mexican panderia.

I don’t think he had many people to talk to about ways to cope with the kinds of change happening on the East Side, because he really wanted to tell me about his perspective. Just next door, the man who owns the second-generation family-run Linoleum store had had his window smashed the week before by errant youths and errant bricks.

Crouched next to the Serlin’s man was the blue sidewalk PiPress box, touting above the fold the completion of the new Phalen Boulevard project. The brand new street runs past Payne Ave about twelve blocks away, at the bottom of the hill.

You article's disappeared into their archive, but some highlights:

After a decade of imagining, lobbying, politicking, fundraising, hand-wringing, negotiating and soul-searching, the middle (and last) stretch of the 2½-mile span will open Saturday to anything other than construction crews.

"This can change perceptions; it should change perceptions," says Brian Dahl, president of Capital Wood Products, a tenant of the Williams Hill Business Center, just off the boulevard's western end. Dahl grew up on the East Side, where much of his family still lives, and moved his business there in 2001.

The corridor's promise butts up against the area's past and present at the intersection of Phalen Boulevard and Payne Avenue. Just north of the crisp, brick townhomes under construction for senior living are blocks of modest restaurants, bedraggled storefronts, check-cashing and "We Buy Houses!" services and a handful of social service centers.

Among people disconnected from the corridor's formal process, it's hard to find anyone with a clear sense of how the corridor will affect longtime locals.

The “corridor,” a four lane 40 mph road running alongside the railroad tracks, is a far cry from the sort of walkable streetscape project that has been so instrumental in igniting development elsewhere in the TC. Payne Avenue would be perfect for one of those types of initiaves. But, because one of the main problems with the East Side is its remoteness, Phalen Blvd will help connect the neighborhood to downtown.

The true benefit of this kind of road, though, is the many small developments that come along with it. Hopefully, this will spur building along the previously empty industrial land along the railroad tracks. Hopefully the train tracks will cease being such a dramatic border between the wonderful, dense landscape of the Payne/Arcade area (it was built along the streetcar line in a classic case of Transit Oriented Development) and Dayton’s Bluff, which is doing much better than the rest of the near East Side in terms of retaining some of it’s middle-class (white) residents.

Actually, my dentist used to have an office on Payne Avenue... I always thought that was questionable...

Update

The strib chimes in…


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