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What do you think would make St. Paul an even better place to live? Submit your idea to the Forever St. Paul Challenge, and you might just find yourself with a million dollars to make it happen. The contest, co-presented by the Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Idea Open, invites informal proposals from Minnesota residents of all walks of life; anyone 12 and older is welcome to submit an idea for consideration, and any issue or area of interest is fair game. Nonexperts and urban planning wonks alike are encouraged to put on their thinking caps and weigh in with creative problem-solving, inspired initiatives, and other thoughtful city-making ideas on the issues most important to them.

Forever St. Paul Challenge organizers are hosting a number of Idea Open Houses throughout the city in March to galvanize the conversation: interested citizens can brainstorm, collaborate and work together to think about ways to improve St. Paul.

Ta-Coumba Aiken's design for the Guiness Book of World Record-breaking Lite Brite mural, to be unveiled this Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Union Depot in Lowertown. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open.

Ta-Coumba Aiken’s design for the Guiness Book of World Record-breaking Lite Brite mural, to be unveiled this Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Union Depot in Lowertown. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open

Entrants are invited to submit their ideas via email, post, voicemail or at any of the Idea Open Houses; you need not type up a formal proposal informal submissions are welcome anytime from February 13 through April 3. When the call for submissions closes in April, a diverse panel of jurors – artists, designers, business owners, policy makers, media personalities and nonprofit professionals – will judge several rounds of semifinalists and finalists, finally selecting a winning entry from the grassroots pool of ideas, assessing each submission on the basis of its impact, innovation and sustainability.

The ultimately winning idea will garner its creator $1,000 in prize money to keep, plus a one-million dollar grant to the organization of their choice (verified and approved by the Saint Paul Foundation) to ensure its implementation. The person who submits the Forever St Paul Challenge-winning proposal may be as involved in the development and execution of their plan as they choose; credit for the idea, not to mention bad-ass bragging rights, will be theirs, regardless.

Minnesota Idea Open has presented such challenges annually, but never for stakes so grand. According to a recent report by Minnesota Public Radio, the winning grant amount is usually closer to $15,000. This year’s million-dollar pot is funded through monies leftover from fundraising by the host committee for the Republican National Convention, held in St. Paul in 2008.

The youngest community volunteer to turn out to help the artist fill the mural with Lite Brite pegs. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open.

The youngest community volunteer to turn out to help the artist fill the mural with Lite Brite pegs. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open

The 2013 Forever St. Paul Challenge officially opens today, February 13 and will kick-off this weekend with a community “Lite Brite Launch Event” on Saturday, February 16 at the Union Depot in Lowertown, St. Paul. Artist Ta-Coumba Aiken will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest Picture Made of Lite-Brite’” with an enormous art installation, 12-feet tall by 24-feet long, filled with more than 520,000 Lite-Brite pegs. There will be live music, food and family-friendly games beginning at 3 p.m., culminating in a lighting ceremony for Aiken’s Lite Brite mural at 7 p.m. with Mayor Chris Coleman, Carleen Rhodes, special guest speakers and a Guinness World Record judge. The event is free and open to the public, but visitors are encouraged to RSVP here if they’re planning to attend.

5 Responses to “The Forever St. Paul Challenge: an open call and a million-dollar grant for the best idea to improve the city”

  1. Mark Francis Podobinski says:

    My first idea is to rip open 7th street again. It was the only continuous street running through the core of downtown St. Paul. People from west 7th traveled it to go up to the east side by old St. John’s. It was the Sat night drag strip. American Graffiti. It can come back. It was equivalent to Nicollet Mall in Mpls. It was a conduit unlike the dead end streets now in downtown. In the 60’s when we went downtown on the bus, everyone got off on 7th street and walked from Minnesota up to Wabasha and St. Peter. It encouraged pedestrian experiences and with cool storefronts some good window shopping. One exception to this was the god awful ugly Dayton’s Block of a concrete WWII shell sitting at 7th and Cedar. Still is ugly. Please rip it down when you open up 7th Street. As a kid, I hated walking by that building, everyone walked across the street from it. It was cold, sterile and boring. When 94 got built, it severed off downtown too. Cover that ugly traffic, create a tunnel with a green way on top. St. Paul in 40 years has a chance to be a beautiful old world charming pedestrian friendly downtown if every decision from now on is only made with improving quality of living down there. Get some Entertainment. Get strip clubs. Casino, whatever to cause people to want to be there. Young people will go for great music. Is it really that hard to get market research done on finding out what people want. Sports, movies, shopping, families, strip clubs. God, don’t be afraid of the human element. You can have churches and strip clubs!!!! Don’t let politicians or preachers choose for the majority of others. We can all live respectfully together side by side having fun and being deeply fulfilled. Make that ghost town come alive. Mpls is discussing how to make Hennepin Ave some great green walk way from the river through downtown to up by the Walker. We don’t even have 7th street to do that with so now is the time to open up 7th street and start making good decisions to revitalize St. Paul in a more pedestrian friendly way. Maybe let a few more churches come in right next to secular establishments. After all, people come in all shapes and sizes but right now the only shape of a person downtown St. Paul is a ghost. 30 years ago, the Union Depot re-development was going to help, today, the light rail is going to help. Blah, blah, blah and more blah. Get rid of the idea, everyone has got to go to Mpls to have fun. What does Mpls have that we don’t have? Pretty easy to figure out if you open an eye. But as the new St. Paul appears and gets purposely built, it could all look really “Old World” quaint and cool. Walkable too. Maybe only charming Streetcars get you around in Downtown. Maybe in the future, when people say “Downtown” it only implies ST. Paul. Wouldn’t that be cool? The politicians, the capital, keep it puritan and all of the crap that to have fun you need to go
    to Mpls has got to end. Really end. Stop playing around with what once was a beautiful downtown before the building of Town’s Square crap
    destroyed it. Loosen the ordinances and get the Entertainment factor going here better than in Las Vegas. C’mon, what are you waiting for? Is it going to destroy dull and frozen concrete? I sure hope so. Is it going to make a ghost come alive? I sure hope so. Watching the last 40 years of downtown St. Paul should be up for an Academy award. It’s just riveting.

    Sincerely,
    Mark

  2. Diane Leibel says:

    I think it would be wonderful to have an oldfashioned trolley car on Grand Ave. from St. Thomas to downtown by Cossett’a’s. What a really fun thing to have…….

    • Jack Hayes says:

      I think Mark and Diane have really hit this particular nail squarely on the head. Of course it would take more than a million dollars to accomplish, but folks, that much could be seed money for the development of this project.

      Let’s start a competitive search for an architect who specializes in this sort of thing. Once found, the monies can be used for the design studies in earnest, and for a new fundraising effort to implement that design. That would be taking this challenge seriously; St.Paul turned into the arts, design and entertainment destination of this region.

  3. Ed Wosick Sr. says:

    Mpls. wants to get rid of the dome stadium so we should negociate with Mpls. to get the stadium and put it up on the lower West Side and make it usable year around for special sports activities and special entertainment flee markets, farmers markets, special car shows or whatever winter/summer sports, such as soccer, any activity that doesn’t have a home and needs one. I think this would bring in people from all over the world to St Paul and the West Side. They need help. The airport is right there, easy acess to the freeway system and people hungry for something to do year around in St. Paul.

  4. Ed Wosick Sr. says:

    I think a floating casino would be a big hit in St. Paul next to the railroad depot and the new base ball stadium. This would give people something to do year around.

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