July open house at St. Paul's Highland Water Tower canceled as reservoir demolition proceeds

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Jun. 24—The long-awaited demolition of the Highland Reservoir kicked into high gear on Wednesday, revealing the interior of the century-old, 18-million-gallon water basin that has been offline for seven years. The hilltop overlooking Snelling Avenue has sat largely untouched since the 1920s and is being taken down, while improvements to Ramsey County's Charles M. Schulz Highland Arena and the adjoining parking lot move forward.

The reservoir is located next to the Highland Water Tower, which is not part of the redevelopment project. However, a summer open house at the water tower scheduled for July has been canceled in light of the construction.

St. Paul Regional Water Services, which is handling reservoir demolition, is coordinating the work alongside St. Paul Parks and Recreation and Ramsey County. Demolition and earthwork at the former reservoir area are expected to continue into August. Utility work in the south parking lot will start next Monday, likely at the south end of the lot.

The board of St. Paul Regional Water Services had once contemplated selling the four acres of land over the reservoir and either demolishing or reusing the reservoir itself. Public proposals in 2017 ran the gamut, from a proposed sale to Hy-Vee grocery to a solar installation or an organic berry farm.

The board chose instead to retain ownership of the land, demolish the hill and offer a future low-cost or no-cost lease to St. Paul Parks and Recreation for new athletic fields. The land will be graded by the water department by Oct. 2022, after which fieldwork can move forward.

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