Secrets of the City: The Central Corridor dig unearths a mystery in Saint Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood.

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“What the hell is going on around here?”

It’s a common enough reaction from pedestrians and motorists trying to make their way through Lowertown these days.

Construction of a spur line connecting Union Depot, the eastern terminal of the Central Corridor LRT, to the Gillette Building four blocks away, future site of the Corridor’s roundhouse, has completely shut down streets around the Saint Paul Farmers Market. Even making your way by foot is tricky, with barriers channeling pedestrians through a maze of rickety walkways.

Now rhetorical questions about what’s going on with the Lowertown construction have been replaced by more puzzling questions raised by local activists and political figures digging deeper into the LRT dig.

Erik Hare is a consultant who specializes in the use of the Internet and social media for promotion and marketing. He also writes “Barataria,” (www.erikhare.wordpress.com) a blog that’s appears frequently on the Daily Planet.

Posted Tuesday, Barataria’s latest installment speculates that more is going on in Lowertown than meets the eye. “Something has been found there…that no one wants to talk about just yet.  When will the truth be revealed?” he asks.

He notes that urban construction sites frequently unearth artifacts from the past: remains of the house of ill-repute operated by late 19th Century Saint Paul madam, Nina Clifford, for example, were discovered during excavation of the site where the Science Museum now stands.

But what, if anything, is being turned up in Lowertown seems to fall into a different category. Hare reports on the increasing number of non-construction worker types observed inspecting the dig. His attempts to interview people connected to the construction have been stonewalled.eHe

 

 

Lastly, he write, “There is some photographic evidence as well as a few documents that are being produced [of finds].  We have rumors that have yet to be confirmed that artifacts have been pulled from the site as well.  Obviously some kind of major find has to be expected when old streets are dug up, but the veil of secrecy and isolation that is fueling speculation that there is more to this than the usual.  No one will admit to anything at this time.”

So what is going on?

It would be easy to dismiss Hare’s speculation as the product of his long-time opposition to the Central Corridor project. An advocate of a streetcar system as a lower cost, less disruptive answer than LRT to our mass transit needs, he likens the project to the urban renewal of the 1960s and 70s  that tore up inner city neighborhoods around the country, gentrifying and corporatizing them in the name of “progress.”

His speculation could even be attributed to a highly active imagination. He is, after all, the creator of another website, Mythnology, (www.mythnology.com) where he is posting a serial speculative novel about “two scientists probing the depths of the human mind with new discoveries that go far beyond their ability to understand what they have.” Subscribers get to leave comments and feedback that Hare then incorporates into future installments, an innovative process he describes as “novel writing as performance art.” 

On the other hand, Hare is not alone. Other, more established figures, like Dave Thune, the city council member who represents downtown Saint Paul, are raising similar questions.

Whatever is happening, one thing is clear: the window of opportunity to ask questions is growing short. The Lowertown construction is scheduled to be completed in a little over a month. With crews firing up as early as 4 a.m. and working until long after dark (a non-standard schedule that itself has fueled questions), the project might even be finished ahead of time.

And then we might never find out what, if anything  (the remains of Sasquatch? A time-capsule buried by extraterrestrials in 23,473 B.C.?) might lie hidden deep in the bowels of Lowertown, Saint Paul.