To build a water feature... or not to build... that is the question



Traffic congestion, transit use, spillover parking, and noise are familiar sticking points in the debate over Major League Soccer and Midway Center redevelopment talks. A less prominent issue is how storm water runoff will be managed. The storm water management issues weren’t finalized when the stadium site plan, Midway Center master plan, and other issues were passed Aug. 17.

While the approved stadium site plan meets basic stormwater management standards, city officials said Aug. 17 that they’d continue to push for more improvements to that plan and to the larger Midway Center redevelopment plan. St. Paul Director of Planning and Economic Development (PED) Jonathan Sage-Martinson and Wes Saunders-Pearce, the city’s water resources coordinator, said that conversations between Minnesota United FC, Midway Center owner RK Midway and city and watershed district officials continue to be productive.

“Time lines are very fluid,” Saunders-Pearce said. While no one is in a position to make guarantees yet, everyone involved will continue to explore opportunities for conservation and other measures.

City staff has worked with the property owners, watershed district officials and consultants on how to manage water runoff. “Stormwater management is a major consideration,” said Saunders-Pearce. The city wants the property owners to promote using stormwater as a resource.

City Council members want to see more attention paid to stormwater management. While the plan meets basic requirements for stormwater underground storage and managing the flow of water into storm sewers, City Council President Russ Stark said he “strongly encourages” Minnesota United FC and RK Midway to look at a more comprehensive approach.

When it rains or snows now, water runs off of the 34.4–acre redevelopment site and into the city’s storm sewers. That carries pollution from the property.

Watershed district and city officials want to see more done to capture water runoff, treat and recycle water, and add some type of water feature like a fountain or reflecting pool to the plans.

Although saying the project team is willing to look at different ways to manage stormwater, Minnesota United FC lead partner Bill McGuire has for several months resisted the notion of a water feature such as a fountain, stream or pool.

McGuire cites the “significant” ongoing capital maintenance costs of a water feature. The use of space also has to be considered. In June he told the Planning Commission that green space (as opposed to a water feature) allows more options for organized and casual recreation use.

The site plan and superblock master plan include two green spaces, two leading from University Ave. to the stadium, a plaza at the northeast corner of Snelling and St. Anthony avenues, and other public gathering areas near the stadium. None of these areas include a water feature.

Anna Eleria, a projects and grants manager for the watershed district, said the district wants to see plan conditions on stormwater management made stronger.She said the city is looking at similar comprehensive water management measures at other large redevelopment sites, including the former Ford Motor Company site in Highland neighborhood, and the West Side Flats. At Ford, a man-made stream to capture and recycle storm water is being discussed as part of the redevelopment.

Eleria said a water feature would be a plus in the neighborhood, which is more than mile from the Mississippi River and even farther away from water features such as Como Lake.

“We want to emphasize that we want to see rainwater treated as a resource,” Eleria said. The watershed district is willing to help with grant funding.

Eleria cited CHS Field in Lowertown as an example for how a sports facility can incorporate cutting-edge stormwater management practice. CHS Field was planned and built to harvest stormwater and reduce dependence on potable water. CHS Field uses stormwater to keep the grass green, water trees and plantings, and even flush the toilets. A 237,000-galoon cistern holds the water. The roof system there can capture rain from 33,370 square feet or three-quarters of an acre. It saves about 450,000 gallons of water per year. The cost for the system was less than $500,000, out of a $63 million project.

But Saunders-Pearce said one challenge in harvesting rainwater off of the soccer stadium roof is that it would have much less roof area than CHS Field.


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