Lowertown, Downtown St. Paul
The eastern edge of the historic business district gives way to warehouses and factories. But Lowertown, as it is now known, was not just a typical mundane industrial district. For one thing, St. Paul was booming in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so some of these industrial structures were visually pretentious. Also, the district organized around the two-acre Smith Park (now Mears Park, located within Sibley and Wacouta, 5th and 6th), which was laid out in 1849, thus predating virtually all of the existing buildings in Lowertown. So this was an unusually handsome setting for an industrial district.
Understandably, then, the City of St. Paul undertook a revitalization of Lowertown, beginning in the late 1960s. As is typically the case where private development must be jump-started, whether with the West River Parkway extension in the North Loop area of Minneapolis, or the adjacent Wacouta Commons (below), a signature public investment anchored subsequent private development. For Lowertown, this was an extravagant (meant in a good sense) 1973 restoration of Smith Park. While urban reinvestment in this area continues to this day, given the activity, including restaurants, and substantial employment in that has been generated so far, the Lowertown redevelopment must be considered a great success.
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