New St. Paul City Hall plaza, seating area erected in memory of Judge Larry Cohen

Sep. 17—In life, Judge Larry Cohen served as a mayor of St. Paul, a Ramsey County commissioner and chief judge of the 2nd Judicial District. Cohen, a soft-spoken but fastidious leader who was 83 when he died in 2016, left behind a legacy that extends beyond his political resume.

He organized the first Hmong interpreters in the Ramsey County courts, advocated for the creation of the city's district council system and, in the 1970s, was the first mayor to lead the city under a new charter that reconstituted city departments under executive leadership.

He'll now be remembered at St. Paul City Hall by the "Circles of Doves and Light," a decorative outdoor plaza, memorial statue and seating area erected in his name.

City and county officials will join organizers with Forecast Public Art on Saturday to unveil the Larry Cohen Recognition Project. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside City Hall at 15 W. Kellogg Boulevard. Designed by artist Marjorie Pitz, the $425,000 plaza in the southeast corner of City Hall is intended to serve as a welcoming place where visitors can learn about the city's immigrant history.

In a written statement, organizers described the plaza as consisting of a pergola of light decorated by thin poles intended to mimic the vertical stainless steel details of City Hall, which is also the Ramsey County Courthouse. The poles support an overhead network of cables and light-catching elements. Dove chairs, which are lit at night, create a playful ambience and seating area. A dove-like memorial sculpture captures the general semblance of an open hand lifted in greeting and is lit in the center.

Circular medallions form a path that invite the public to share in Cohen's ethics and follow in his footsteps. Ramsey County also installed waterproofing, planter repairs and new pavement.

Cohen, the son of first-generation immigrants and an advocate for restorative justice, formed a strong relationship with Hmong leaders while he was chief judge, earning a reputation for helping newcomers to resolve issues in culturally-appropriate ways.