Mayor’s “state of the city” speech touts new East Side building


St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman gave his speech at the yet-to-open Arlington Hills Community Center at the corner of Payne and Maryland avenues. The bright, sun lit building was a central part of the speech. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Speaking in the brightly lit gathering room at the new Arlington Hills Community Center, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman delivered his annual “state of the city” speech last week.

“Payne-Phalen has become a hallmark for how we as a city must grow,” Coleman told the crowd, emphasizing the promise of the new building. “Our efforts could not be more clear than here, in the Arlington Hills Community Center.”

The 41,000-square-foot facility will include a variety of resources for youths, including a teen center, a kid-friendly library and a full scope of recreation facilities. The building is scheduled to open May 22.

“What was once a corner anchored by a small hardware store and an obsolete 1970’s-era rec center,” he said, “will soon be a center of innovative learning and youth development,” he said.

Perhaps the show-stealer of the event was DeShaun Baker, a 17-year-old student from Harding High School. Baker essentially served as Coleman’s spokesperson, plugging the city’s new youth job program, Right Track. Through the program Baker has been plugged in to an internship with Xcel working as an office assistant.

Coleman called for applause for Baker, calling him an example of “what hard work and perseverance can do for a young man.”

Prior to Coleman’s speech, Baker hammed it up in a video touting new city developments, including the Arlington Hills building, the new Green Line light rail along University Avenue, and the Lowertown ballpark.

The video also touted Heiruspecs, a Twin Cities hip hop group that told audience members the downtown has opened up in terms of having spaces for musicians to perform. This later plugged into the city’s plan to renovate and re-open the Palace Theater downtown, and other moves to bolster the arts and culture scene in downtown St. Paul.

“These places create vibrancy in our city” that can draw companies to the city, he said.

Coleman also touched on the plans for a new Dorothy Day Center, which had originally been planned for a site near the lower East Side. The proposed site drew sharp criticism from East Siders who worried it would bring negative elements to the area.

“We should always be mindful to consider the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” he said, emphasizing a need to eliminate homelessness.

Catholic Charities, the group that runs the Dorothy Day Center, is now looking at building a new facility on the current site in downtown St. Paul near the Xcel Energy Center.

Again emphasizing transit, Coleman emphasized a variety of transit projects in planning stages in addition to the soon-to-open Green Line light rail train connecting downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis.

But at the close of his speech, he reverted to talking about old school transportation: “You can’t talk about transportation without mentioning the ‘P’ word -- potholes,” he said, earning some chuckles.

He noted the havoc this year’s severe winter weather wreaked on the city’s roads -- he said he’d push to find more resources to rebuild the worst streets in the city, both by getting Public Works crews busy, but also by identifying additional sources of funding to overhaul city streets.

The mayor mentioned the expanded plastics recycling program the city is rolling out, and switching to single-sort recycling for households, and closed the speech pondering what St. Paul will look like in 20 years.

“Let’s hit the gas,” he concluded, “and continue to build this wonderful city well into the future.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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