Saint Paul Green Stormwater Infrastructure
Changing the Process in Flight
As part of its work with the City Accelerator, Saint Paul is pursuing stormwater management as “shared district” concept. In this approach, green stormwater infrastructure (GI) is planned as a visible upfront investment serving multiple parcels, allowing the city to elevate property value and catalyze neighborhood revitalization.
First Saint Paul had to demonstrate the value of its preferred alternative to traditional stormwater management. Developers were concerned that the district-based GI process would impose new costs or delays compared to the traditional approach. Developers had legitimate fear that the time required to pioneer new options would impact their projects, and potentially jeopardize their developments’ meeting financial and construction deadlines.
Demonstrating value required clearly establishing the typical investment cost under the traditional model. Saint Paul hoped to show an economy of scale for a district-based system as well as set a policy baseline for equitable financial contributions from benefiting properties. In essence, developers are being asked to provide the same investment but apply it towards a higher performing green system that has greater value.
Stormwater management costs are highly variable and regionally specific. The city’s local research about developer’s typical stormwater costs was difficult. Often stormwater was not isolated in construction bids; contacts were not responsive; or many contractors were no longer reachable. Yet enough information was gained to show this minor overall incremental cost increase can return greater investment value.
Saint Paul used part of its City Accelerator funding to host a forum of national experts to hear how value was demonstrated for precedent projects. It also worked with multiple public agencies to address long-term operations and maintenance concerns, including cost of O&M and liability concerns if stormwater features fail and cause flooding in the area. It also explored long-term financial tools that will allow the capital elements to be constructed in advance of the need.
This is a rendering of Hidden Creek Falls, part of the plan for redeveloping a 122-acre parcel on the site of a former Ford motor company assembly plant in Saint Paul. The plan includes daylighting Hidden Creek as a key site amenity and stormwater utility.