Page 1 of 6

Former West Publishing / County Jail development site

Posted: September 4th, 2013, 11:38 pm
by at40man
Surprised this hasn't been mentioned here yet, but Pioneer Press just ran an article about possible demolition of the old West Publishing complex, as well as the old Ramsey County Jail.

http://www.twincities.com/stpaul/ci_240 ... ul-offices

I had some business to attend to in the old West buildings when Ramsey County had offices there. It was a rather dismal building, the part I was in had low ceilings and no windows.

The old Ramsey County jail is very striking architecture IMHO. It fits into the bluff nicely, and doesn't look particularly jail-like. Unfortunately, it also doesn't look like it could easily be converted to other uses due to the concrete walls on the interior, which could make rehabilitation quite expensive.

That said, both of these complexes have very large windows facing the river. I could see apartments or hotel fitting in quite nicely there, with very close proximity to the downtown amenities.

It does trouble me to read the following sentence: "The real question is how do you get a public-spirited redevelopment in that location?"

I don't think this location needs a "public-spirited" (aka taxpayer-subsidized) redevelopment. St Paul has more than enough "public-spirited" developments, and could use some business-spirited developments. Meaning... perhaps the best option is to practically give the complex away to a developer and offer tax incentives to either rehabilitate the structure for new residential use, or start anew. This would lead to a revenue-generating property that could contribute life to the city streets, as well as tax revenue to balance the books. Unfortunately, current leadership of the city and the ward are ideologically-driven and haven't met a tax they don't like -- even though the rate at which they are increasing taxes and burdens on both individuals and business have been inhibiting city growth and prosperity for quite some time.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 7:10 am
by stp1980
I have always pictured a building here that hugs the bluff a bit, but covered in glass and looks like a waterfall flowing over the side, that could be very cool!

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 8:42 am
by minnyapple
Hope it doesn't turn out that demolish all those buildings and nothing gets built at all or it takes forever for something to materialize. Minneapolis tried that in the past. Still recovering from that mistake.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 9:09 am
by FISHMANPET
Not sure why the city/county has to demolish those structures to make development happen. Put them on the market as is, and if you want to subsidize the cost of demolition, lower the purchase price or give them a tax credit or something. While it's not likely, it's possible that there's a use for these buildings that doesn't require demolition, and if we just demolish them we're taking away the ability for a private developer to make that decision.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 11:13 am
by Seve
Would rather see them torn down than re utilized into apartments. I find the buildings to be ugly and undeserving of their prime location.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 2:58 pm
by mamundsen
Don't some of these buildings contain infrastructure that holds up Kellogg?

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 6:37 pm
by mulad
I'm not sure about the street itself, but certainly some of the plaza/sidewalk area.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 7:12 pm
by Wedgeguy
mamundsen wrote:Don't some of these buildings contain infrastructure that holds up Kellogg?

That would be one of the engineering questions that they have to look at before tearing any buildings down. But if it cost more to maintain building that will be torn down in the future it is better that they come down now to help take out one of those possible hurdles to redevelopment.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 5th, 2013, 9:59 pm
by David Greene
Why do we have to build into the bluff at all? Why not restore the bluff (as much as possible given Kellogg) and build on top of it?

Or make a park. It would be a prime location.

It always struck me as sad to see those building covering a beautiful natural feature.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 6th, 2013, 1:59 pm
by Wedgeguy
PArk?? Prime location for whom. It would be at the bottom of a bluff that is not really connected to the city up above. Yes we can build stairs and elevators. This park would be close to the railroad track, St. Paul steam heat plant, and difficult to get to with Shepard Road, the railroad, making access to the river difficult. I'd prefer a building/s that hugged the bluff, with buildings that would be separated with a plaza / park that would allow views to the river from Kellogg and a place in the sun for people to enjoy the river in the sun. No monolith wall building along Kellogg like there is now. Slender towers with nice space in between for parks and plazas.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 9th, 2013, 10:23 am
by Nathan
I can't think of a better location for a new Vertical Endeavors Location... Why not restore some bluffs, and do some building cascading down/up, and do some park, while creating that greenway around the edge of DT the way the their river plan calls for? I mean if they're going to do something in these areas, THESE are the places to do it up. It's the most visible edge of the city, and since I think the city is taking a great better turn towards focusing on residential and the arts/museums, do things that residents and patrons might want to utilize in conjunction with the other features.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 9th, 2013, 2:12 pm
by at40man
fotoapparatic wrote:I can't think of a better location for a new Vertical Endeavors Location... Why not restore some bluffs, and do some building cascading down/up, and do some park, while creating that greenway around the edge of DT the way the their river plan calls for? I mean if they're going to do something in these areas, THESE are the places to do it up. It's the most visible edge of the city, and since I think the city is taking a great better turn towards focusing on residential and the arts/museums, do things that residents and patrons might want to utilize in conjunction with the other features.
I like this idea, though I can't help but think that condos/apartments would generate more revenue and infuse more people closer to the CBD than most of the other Lowertown projects.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 9th, 2013, 3:00 pm
by Nathan
Right/Exactly. Restore maybe a 20 foot wide section of bluffs for climbing and recreation, border with condos that go from river level to above street plane, with retail on the street, incorporate the bike/pedestrian path into the architecture of the building to wrap around the river side. You could do all of it, if someone had the vision and the $$$

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 10th, 2013, 6:33 am
by gcm
As posted on the "Lost Project" topic, this seems to provide a nice mixture of buildings and green space. I can't imagine a project of this size would happen anytime soon, but maybe a scaled down version with buildings in the 15 to 20 story range would be feasible.

Image

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 11th, 2013, 2:02 am
by TroyGBiv
As I remember - the current structures do have some reinforcing structure to hold the bluffs up and there are some natural springs that run out of the bluff. The city plan has been for housing and entertainment along both sides of the river as well as developing better connections between the city and the river. One model to consider is Cass Gilbert's original plan for the U of M mall to run down the hill and to the lower river flats. In that past decade they have reconstructed that area to reflect those plans. The jail would be incredibly difficult to retrofit to support residences. Solid concrete floors, walls and low height ceilings would likely be cost prohibitive. But a design like this illustration could possibly be modified to provide public access while allowing new residential, office or Science Museum-like institutions. The Twin Cities could use a natural history museum or a planetarium. Just my two cents.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 11th, 2013, 10:15 am
by David Greene
Wedgeguy wrote:PArk?? Prime location for whom. It would be at the bottom of a bluff that is not really connected to the city up above. Yes we can build stairs and elevators. This park would be close to the railroad track, St. Paul steam heat plant, and difficult to get to with Shepard Road, the railroad, making access to the river difficult. I'd prefer a building/s that hugged the bluff, with buildings that would be separated with a plaza / park that would allow views to the river from Kellogg and a place in the sun for people to enjoy the river in the sun. No monolith wall building along Kellogg like there is now. Slender towers with nice space in between for parks and plazas.
The park idea was basically what you're describing here, if I understand you correctly. It would be on top of the bluff, not at the bottom.

There is no good public space from which to view the river in downtown right now. It desperately needs one.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 11th, 2013, 10:27 am
by woofner
What's wrong with the three-block park between Wabasha & Robert?

Not that I disagree with the idea of bluff-top plazas on the county parcels, but I'm surprised to hear that St Paul is hurting for scenic views. It's missing a lot of things, but a view ain't one.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 11th, 2013, 11:44 am
by gcm
Downtown St. Paul's problem isn't a lack of parks, it's a lack of people to enjoy the parks. The site can be designed to provide views of the river for the general public. It could also draw people in with restaurants and outdoor dining areas overlooking the river. Personally, I find parks more interesting when there are actually some people using the park. Look at Raspberry Island - wonderful park, but seldom anyone there. Compare that to the Upper Landing park which draws people from the surrounding housing developments.

I suspect what will happen is they will tear down the buildings now and later when they want to develop the site, they'll run in to the "you can't take away our open spaces" opposition. It's always the same thing in St. Paul, find whatever excuse you can stop development.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 11th, 2013, 1:22 pm
by mulad
An interesting possible use in my mind would be as a college -- the jail building would probably convert to a dorm facility relatively well, and office spaces would probably change over to classrooms pretty easily.

I walked past the buildings yesterday evening -- the jail is a much more interesting structure to me, so on looks alone, I'd rather see that one kept. The West Publishing/Ramsey County building is much bigger, but also very, very bland. I have no idea how easy/hard either one is to convert to other uses, though -- ultimately, that's the most important thing to me. I don't think it's a very good idea to tear either one down at this point, particularly since the structures have probably mutilated the natural bluff face behind them.

This is a crummy phone-cam shot, but it kind of shows what might be expected if the buildings were removed -- supporting members for Kellogg Boulevard, utility lines, and any wall-like brick/stone/concrete structures to shore up the bluff. Probably the best you can hope for is something like the bluff face under the park woofner mentioned between Wabasha and Robert, which is okay, I guess (and its own oddity because a piece of 2nd Street is tucked under there).

As gcm said, downtown St. Paul has other problems -- There just isn't enough of a people presence, though that's partly due to the government/bank/corporate nature of the area. Way too many structures with blank walls where the only street-level openings are for parking garages, loading docks, and emergency exits.

Re: Possible demolition of West Publishing / old jail

Posted: September 11th, 2013, 2:09 pm
by MNdible
mulad wrote:An interesting possible use in my mind would be as a college -- the jail building would probably convert to a dorm facility relatively well, and office spaces would probably change over to classrooms pretty easily.

I walked past the buildings yesterday evening -- the jail is a much more interesting structure to me, so on looks alone, I'd rather see that one kept.
I agree with you that the jail is a very interesting building, and a dorm might actually make sense. I seem to recall, from the last time they tried to market these buildings, that there were some very specific, unusual things about the way that the jail was built that would make it very difficult to retrofit for anything else.