The problem with St. Paul


The problem with Saint Paul is not streets laid out by “drunken Irishmen” (actually good public works is one of the best things about the City) – it is that there is less and less “there” there.

I drove back from Minneapolis on Wednesday night to see illuminated the new “Travelers” sign with the red umbrella where the building used to mark the presence of The St Paul.

The New York money men have done away with a company as old and as good as old Saint Paul. The shell of a company is here, but its heart beats out east. We are now flyover land.

At least Omaha has Warren Buffet.

So one more Saint Paul Titan has succumbed to the creative destruction that comes with market capitalism. No more Great Northern; no more West Publishing; no more breweries; no more Whirlpool, no more Amhoist. No more First Bank or Briggs and Morgan or Doherty Rumble and Butler.

No more World Trade Center with shopping concourse, just another modest office tower.

The Pioneer Building under new ownership is closed and empty. Rumor has it that it will have a brief day in the sun next summer when rented out in support of the Republican Convention.

But seeing The St. Paul sign gone forever was, for me, a real turning point in Saint Paul’s decline. Now it seems there is no going back. ECOLAB has its corporate headquarters in Saint Paul, but is it a vibrant part of Saint Paul? A Lawson building, a successful Wild sports franchise, a St. Paul Grill, a Pazzaluna and a Kincaid’s, the Ordway, are all to the good, but they don’t make for a critical mass. They don’t give heart and soul and meaning to a city.

Check out Woodbury as a destination for shopping and eating.

We were supposed to morph into a river city, pulsing with energy and European charm like the cities along the Thames, the Seine, the Danube. I’m still waiting for the transfiguration.

Maybe the new incarnation of Saint Paul is a collection of neighborhoods. OK. People need houses and local stores. But do home property values have to carry so much of the expenses of city, county and school district operations?

Wither Saint Paul? A good question.