Station-area plans being finalized for Gold Line transit corridor


courtesy of Gold Line Partners The Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit corridor will run between downtown St. Paul and Woodbury along Interstate 94. As a part planning for the project, an urban planning consulting firm was hired to help create station-area plans, which will help guide future development along the transit corridor.

images courtesy of Gold Line Partners Most of the development suggestions for the Sun Ray station involved redeveloping the Sun Ray shopping center in phases, creating high-density housing and retail.

Of the suggestions presented by the consulting firm during a Jan. 16 meeting, it was suggested that a parcel of land east of the new apartment buildings on Hazel Street be turned into a park, giving direct line-of-sight to the future bus station, which will be between the parcel of land and Interstate 94.

With planning well underway for the Gold Line bus rapid transit corridor, station-area plans are beginning to wrap up, serving to lead potential future development along the corridor.

The Gold Line is a transit corridor that will run from downtown St. Paul along Interstate 94 to Woodbury. The transitway, which will consist of buses running in their own dedicated lanes, is estimated to begin operations in 2024. 

There are five stops on the East Side — Mounds Boulevard/Maria Avenue, Earl Street, Etna Street, White Bear Avenue and Sun Ray. 

Gold Line Partners, the group of city and county officials representing their communities in the creation of the Gold Line, hired an urban planning consulting firm to help create a Bus Rapid Transit-Oriented Development Plan to serve as a guide for future development around the stations. 

Portland-based Crandall Arambula made suggestions for accessibility, connections, safety, housing and jobs near the stations.  

The plans are based off community meetings and resident input, already established community plans and others — like the St. Paul Bicycle Plan — within the city. While the plans don’t guarantee any specific developments, they serve more to guide development that could occur five to 10 years after construction of the Gold Line. 

Within the plan are two areas — circulation and development — that looked at how people get to and from the station and what kind of housing and retail could potentially be created around the stations. 

At a Jan. 16 meeting with the District 1 Community Council, consultant Don Arambula focused on the White Bear Avenue and Sun Ray stations. 

 

White Bear Avenue station

While creating the plan, the demographics and characteristics of the neighborhoods up to a half mile from the stations were considered, Arambula said. Each station was given a typology — a sort of definition — based off of existing housing, community plans, zoning and demographics.

The White Bear Avenue station was labeled as a neighborhood station, meaning it has “established residential areas with fewer opportunities for transit-oriented infill or development,” as described by Arambula.  

While it’s being called the White Bear Avenue station, it will actually be aligned with Hazel Street, between White Bear and Ruth Street, a change from past plans due to the recent construction of a new apartment building off Hazel between I-94 and Old Hudson Road.

The circulation plan includes adding bike lanes on Third Street, adding a trail and buffer to White Bear Avenue and adding bike lanes and sidewalks along Old Hudson Road. It was also suggested that a trail should be added on the south side of Suburban and Burns avenues to create connections to retail in the area. 

Of the few community members in attendance, all seemed to agree that a logical addition would be a connection to the retail area south of I-94 via a pedestrian bridge over the freeway directly to the White Bear station. This would allow users to skip walking up White Bear Avenue or Ruth Street. Arambula said it could be added to the plan.

The development plan included making a vacant lot just east of the new apartment building into a park, providing a shared green space and also a clear line of sight to the bus station itself. The lot is owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Other suggestions included turning under-used parking lots into multi-family mixed-use housing, as well as continuing to fill vacant retail space in the area south of I-94, which has been an ongoing goal for a number of years. 

 

Sun Ray

According to Arambula, Sun Ray station was identified as a mixed-use neighborhood station, meaning that it “retains transit-supportive uses, supports local businesses and provides housing options.” 

He said the station was also unique because the Sun Ray shopping center provides an opportunity for phased redevelopment, creating higher density housing and commercial spaces. He added its proximity to 3M, which is right across McKnight Road from the shopping center, is also a unique asset when it comes to marketing housing and retail.  

The Sun Ray station is planned to be along Old Hudson Road at the end of Pedersen Street, directly south of TJ Maxx.

Similar to the White Bear station, which is just a few blocks away, the consultants again suggested bike lanes on Third Street, Ruth and Old Hudson, as well as creating a walking/bike trail along Pedersen Street that would connect the Sun Ray station to Sun Ray Library and Conway Recreation Center. 

In terms of development, the plan mainly accounts for possible high-density redevelopment of the Sun Ray Mall. It suggests redeveloping the mall into a new street grid and creating a number of multi-family apartment buildings with ground-level retail space. 

Creating a new street grid could provide space for a park or plaza along Pedersen Street to keep an active line of sight to the Sun Ray station.

Arambula also suggested studying how the already existing Park and Ride transit center at the shopping mall could be moved or better incorporated with the Gold Line station.

The plans are set to be finalized in February, and will guide the City of St. Paul when it comes to future development. For those with questions or suggestions, reach out to St. Paul City Planner Bill Dermody at 651-266-6617 or at bill.dermody@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

More information about the station area plans and graphics can be found at www.thegatewaycorridor.com/station-area-planning.

–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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