Skyways Inspire Debate About the Future of Downtown St. Paul

The debate over public safety in Downtown St. Paul is once again focused on the city's skyways. There, concerns about access challenge any possible solutions.

June 16, 2017, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


St. Paul Skyway

Michael Hicks / Flickr

A fight over Downtown St. Paul's skyways is also a fight for the "future of downtown itself, according to an article by Peter Callaghan.

The owner of the Railroader Printing Building began locking the public out of the skyway it shares with several other buildings on E. 6th Street hours in March. The owner, Jaunae Brooks, is also petitioning the city council for permission to make the change permanent, reports Callaghan.

Her reasons? As Brooks explained in a lengthy letter to the city, she thinks people who misuse the system are putting her tenants and the public at risk. “The homeless have been literally living in my skyway for the past few years, suitcases and all,” she wrote. “They sleep naked and clothed, cook on hot plates, eat, poop and pee, smoke cigarettes and pot creating a fire hazard, drink alcohol, have sex leaving used condoms behind, use drugs intravenously and leave needles behind, litter and vandalize my property daily.”

There has been no shortage of opposition to the petition, including from the Skyway Governance Advisory Committee, disability advocates, local residents and workers, and city officials. The concern is the precedent closing the skyway early would set for the legal agreement between private building owners and the city about the use of St. Paul's skyways.

The controversy over this particular skyway is set against a context of a downtown revitalization that means the skyways around downtown are busier and more active than ever. Some even blame the rising incidences of public safety concerns in the skyways (which Planetizen last documented in May 2016) on some of the amenities that have opened up in recent years around Downtown St. Paul, like the Central Station of the Green Line.

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