“More than a Balcony:” Connecting St. Paul to the Mississippi

St. Paul has 17 miles of Mississippi riverfront property, and the Metropolitan Design Center wants to help more people enjoy them. MDC researchers have partnered with the City of St. Paul, the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation, and BKV Architects to design a plan for a public River Balcony walkway connecting downtown—from Union Depot to the Science Museum—to the river.

The idea came from Saint Paul’s recent Great River Passage study, which called for a balcony creating a visual connection to the river. The River Balcony Design partners then took the concept to the next level. “What emerged from that work was more than a balcony,” explained MDC director Tom Fisher. “It became an elevated walk, sometimes at the edge of the bluff and sometimes over the rail tracks and road, which allows for ramps down to the river edge.”

The project team drew inspiration from the Highline in New York City, the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, and even CHS field in St. Paul. The River Balcony will be integrated into new development on private property along the river bluff, allowing for site-specific design elements. And it will connect to existing bike paths, parks and trails, streets, and skyways; showcasing natural features wherever possible.

To engage community stakeholders, the City of St. Paul and MDC hosted a public opening and feedback session earlier this fall. They plan to hold more as the project progresses. “It was designed to be built in many phases, all of which will have public input. And the balcony itself, of course, is open to the public at all times,” said Fisher. Over the next few months, BVK will complete a detailed design and construction documents. Fisher thinks that a walkway at the eastern end connecting Union Depot and the renovated custom house to each other and to the river will be the first stretch to be built.


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Fly-through video courtesy MinnPost.

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