Saint Paul’s Block E

Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman gave his State of the City Address today. The mayor cited the bulk of the most disruptive light-rail construction being over as an example of the city being on the “right track.” Get it?

For those of us who love nostalgia, though, this is the highlight:

It is also why we have not stopped our pursuit of the Penfield project. We are, perhaps, only months away from breaking ground on that project, thanks in large part to the work of Planning and Economic Development Director Cecile Bedor and Councilmember Dave Thune. When completed, it will bring 260 units of market-rate housing along the Central Corridor and a first-rate grocery store to the center of our town. It will join the Lofts at Farmers Market as the newest housing in downtown. That project, completed only a few weeks ago, is already 72 percent leased – far exceeding projections.

Give the mayor some credit for the pluck it takes to talk up a project that’s been a bit of an embarrassment. The city took over as developer last year.

The Penfield’s billboards advertising the high-rise view of the condos still stand more than five years after they went up.


The reconfigured project got a shot in the arm more than two years ago when Lund’s announced it would have a grocery store at the site. That never happened, either.

Today, the site’s glitzy showroom is still abandoned…


The railings on its ramp have rotted…


..and a tree has grown through it, ironic since a couple of trees the developer planted are dead.


The phone books have been delivered…


The mayor may well be right that the project could start in a few months (the city has approved finance). Who’s taking bets?