St. Paul City Council to back sales tax spending for Grand Avenue, parks projects

The St. Paul City Council is poised Wednesday to distribute some $45 million in anticipated sales tax revenue to roughly 80 projects spread throughout the city, including major street reconstruction along a portion of Grand Avenue.

Most of the funding in the first year of the city’s new 20-year sales tax increase will be dedicated to parks maintenance, including replacing natural gas steam boilers at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory with geothermal heat pumps.

Some 44 miles of major arterial roads will be reconstructed over the 20-year life of the local options sales tax increase, which was approved by city voters last November. The sales tax will also help support mill-and-overlay road resurfacing projects in 2024, 2025 and 2026 at locations yet to be determined.

For Parks and Recreation, the funds also will support $10.4 million for deferred facility maintenance, $4.9 million to revitalize downtown parks, $1.4 million to repave playing courts, $1.5 million for asphalt work at parking lots, sidewalks and trails, $1.5 million for improvements to weathered athletic fields, and $1 million to spruce up water features such as decorative fountains.

Another $400,000 will support facility design for five major parks projects, including a proposed downtown river balcony.

Sales tax-funded road projects through 2028

Grand Avenue: St. Paul Public Works will dedicate $10.2 million from the new sales tax toward reconstructing Grand Avenue from Snelling to Fairview avenues this year, as well as another $500,000 from the sales tax toward intersection improvements at Grand and Snelling.

University Avenue: Reconstruction of Interstate 35E to Lafayette Road is scheduled to take place in 2025 with a $6.9 million boost from the sales tax.

Jackson Street: Also in 2025, St. Paul Public Works will reconstruct Jackson Street from University Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue with another $6.9 million in sales tax funding.

Earl Street: In 2026, crews will reconstruct Earl Street from Maryland to Minnehaha avenues with $13.3 million from the sales tax. In 2027, they’ll reconstruct Earl Street from Minnehaha Avenue to Burns Avenue with $15 million from the sales tax.

Pelham Boulevard: In 2026, crews will reconstruct Pelham Boulevard from Franklin Avenue to Mississippi River Boulevard with $16.3 million from the sales tax.

Shepard Road: In 2027, crews will reconstruct Shepard Road from Minnesota 5 to Madison Street with $28.7 million from the sales tax. In 2028, they’ll reconstruct Shepard from Madison to Elway Street with $29 million from the sales tax.

A partial selection of 2024 parks projects

Replacement of artificial turf at the Oxford/Jimmy Lee Rec Center lower field: $1 million.

Downtown Osborne Plaza on Wabasha Street: $1 million.

Highland Park Community Center field: $375,000 in 2024, followed by $1.6 million from the sales tax in subsequent years.

The Hamline Park Building: $1 million for maintenance improvements, including exterior stairs.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory geothermal projects: $7 million in 2024 across three projects — polar bear exhibit, administrative building, primate building, followed by $1.3 million from the sales tax in subsequent years for geothermal installations in heated buildings elsewhere across the zoo.

Hayden Heights Play area renovation: $571,000 toward playground improvements in 2024, including repaved tennis courts and basketball courts, to be followed by $384,000 from the sales tax in subsequent years.

Highwood Hills Field renovation: $300,000 toward field improvements by the rec center.

Design funds: The sales tax dollars also will help fund design of a series of major city projects. They include $100,000 for a River Learning Center at the Watergate Marina by Crosby Farm Regional Park; $100,000 for a new athletic complex on the city’s North End; $60,000 toward an East Side community center; $100,000 toward a downtown river balcony; and $50,000 toward parks projects at the Heights, the former Hillcrest Country Club off Larpenteur Avenue.

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