Pocket Parks eyeing Payne


Adding vibrancy to the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, the Payne Phalen Pocket Parks group made a small park out of a vacant lot in 2013. This year, they’re looking to put another one on Payne Avenue. (submitted photo)

Community park group will likely expand this year

With a couple of Payne Phalen Pocket Parks under their belts in 2013, the volunteer crew of East Side neighbors is ready for more. The neighborhood group created a small park and a community garden last year. This summer they’re pulling for a presence right on Payne Avenue.

The plan is to install a new park right on the northwest corner of Payne and Minnehaha avenues.

“We want it to be really bright ... so that when you’re driving up Payne Avenue you can’t help but notice it,” said Crystal Passi, who’s in charge of organizing the new park.

The plot of land in question lies just across Payne Avenue from the St. Paul Police Department’s Eastern District building, just a block from the Hamm’s Brewery building’s new offerings, Flat Earth Brewing and Urban Organics.

Passi said the new spot is at the “gateway to the commercial corridor.”

“We think it’s a really good spot,” Passi said.

The land is owned by the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and the two groups are still working out the terms of the lease arrangement.

Though nothing’s final, Passi said interactions with the city had been positive and that things were looking good.

“(The city has) been great; very helpful and communicative,” she said.

Sweetening the group’s prospects somewhat is a large grant coming to it via the East Side Arts Council. The non-profit arts group has secured $15,000 from the McKnight Foundation to be used towards public art in the park on Jessamine, as well as the prospective one on Payne Avenue.

Sarah Fehr, executive director of the East Side Arts Council, said the organization was keen to support the Pocket Parks group.

“They’ve done such a good job of making the East Side beautiful with these gardens,” Fehr said.

Though the details of the type of art installed at the parks is up in the air, Fehr said part of the plan would be to install large artistic pots that would hold trees.

Shannon Lawson, who lives next door to the Pocket Park at 752 Jessamine Ave., said the park was a success in its first year.

Neighbors came to visit the park, and the place was fairly well maintained, she said, although “it was a ton of work.”

The group planted peonies, petunias, rose bushes, coleus, begonias and hostas, along with an edible section consisting of tomatoes, herbs, squash and watermelon.

This year, Lawson said the group is hoping to wrangle in additional neighbors, “so that it can be a true neighborhood park.”

Also in the works for this year at the park will be adding signage, so there’s “more awareness of it, and that it’s open to everybody.”

Passi said that at the end of last summer, the park was a rewarding sight for the group.

“At the end of the season ... it just looked like it had always been there,” she said.

She said the plan for this year is to bring in more perennial plants -- last year the majority of the plants were annuals.

“We want something that’s going to have a bit more permanence.”

And the hope is that the new pocket park will have that permanence -- because it’s a partial lot, it’s not immediately buildable, Passi said. So the hope is that it will be welcoming East Siders to the neighborhood for years to come. 

For more information about the group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/pppocketparks/.

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

 

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