Anyone who went to the office of St. Paul City Council Member David Thune around 1:30 on Thursday afternoon would surely be surprised to see the room overflowing with young people, all dressed in the same t-shirt. They are West Side youth.
In fact, they are young people that belong to West Side Citizens Organization (WSCO), an organization based on the West Side of St. Paul that for more than 25 years has been working to promote development that is sustainable and consistent with the area’s residents and business owners. This includes affordable housing, accessible parks and recreational facilities, and high-quality education.
The reason for the visit was to “support the West Side Flats Masterplan”, said Samuel Buffington, community connector for WSCO. “Young people of the West Side are worried about the recent cases of city development plans in the area that do not fit with the model presented in the West Side Flats Masterplan”.
The plan, developed in 2001 by community members and business owners in conjunction with the city of St. Paul, established guidelines for development in West Side and the Riverfront accessible and consistent with the vision of the community and pedestrians.
According to Buffington, a developer has brought forward a project that has been named Bridges. This project comprises the construction and sale of one hotel and several luxury apartments that Buffington assures “do not fit the guidelines set by the development plan.”
Dave Thune, who represents the West Side area, was receptive about the requests presented by the more than 20 young people present in the office.
“The thing is that this Bridges project already has an apartment building constructed”, Buffington said. “But it has not handed in, to our knowledge, any official form to the City Council. What we want is that they present the development plan and then adapt it to the guidelines set by the 2001 plan.”