Project Library

Saint Paul’s Upper Landing:
A New Neighborhood on the River

Project History:
The Upper Landing is a new 22-acre, $175 million Mississippi riverfront residential neighborhood in Saint Paul. Once a metal scrap yard and Superfund site, the Upper Landing today features seven blocks of riverside housing (home to 1,000 new residents), two new parks, a park pavilion/trail head and interpretive center, a public plaza with fountains and gathering spaces, river overlooks, fishing pier and a barge fleeting area.

Transformation of the Upper Landing began in 1997 when the Riverfront Corporation led the creation of the Saint Paul on the Mississippi Development Framework, a community-driven vision for redeveloping the downtown Saint Paul riverfront and surrounding urban villages. During work on the Framework, the Upper Landing emerged as “one of the most significant opportunities [and challenges] to reintegrate and reconnect the Mississippi with the downtown core.”

In 1998, the Riverfront Corporation, City staff, port authority, technical and real estate consultants, stakeholders, and neighborhood organizations developed a 300-page report, The Upper Landing; A Development Opportunity. Finding development difficult but possible, a national search was conducted to find a developer. In 2001, the Riverfront Corporation created work teams to resolve seven major issues between the City, developer, neighbors and stakeholders – and created the Upper Landing Urban Design Master Plan and Summary Recommendations to guide development.

The Riverfront Corporation’s Design Center worked with Centex, the project master developer, the City of Saint Paul, neighborhood and stakeholder groups to develop Design Guidelines – and worked with individual developers on design of each building/complex
To prepare the site for development, Shepard Road was realigned and moved away from the river’s edge, replaced by a commuter bike and pedestrian trail. Critically, a century’s worth of accumulated polluted soil was trucked away. Clean fill raised the landing above the100-year flood level and housing above the 500-year watermark. Stormwater is managed by innovative wet and dry pond storage and filtration areas lined with native plantings. Today, eagles soar above the Upper Landing and waterfowl and songbirds visit the ponds and rain gardens. The last mile of concrete revetment on the river’s edge will be replaced with stone riprap to provide even better habitat for native flora and fauna, naturalizing, beautifying and protecting this riverfront neighborhood.

To prepare the site for development, Shepard Road was realigned and moved away from the river’s edge, replaced by a commuter bike and pedestrian trail. Critically, a century’s worth of accumulated polluted soil was trucked away. Clean fill raised the landing above the100-year flood level and housing above the 500-year watermark. Stormwater is managed by innovative wet and dry pond storage and filtration areas lined with native plantings. Today, eagles soar above the Upper Landing and waterfowl and songbirds visit the ponds and rain gardens. The last mile of concrete revetment on the river’s edge will be replaced with stone riprap to provide even better habitat for native flora and fauna, naturalizing, beautifying and protecting this riverfront neighborhood.

Upper Landing Features

Upper Landing Park:
Completed in 2006, Upper Landing Park was funded by $3 million in state bonding. The park includes a river’s edge trail, fountains and sculptures, a small gathering area/amphitheater, sculptural mounds recording the height of the major floods of the past 50 years, an open lawn for play and relaxation, and a site for launching riverfront fireworks displays.

Samuel H. Morgan Regional Trail:
An additional $3 million was invested in bike and pedestrian regional trails along the river, completed in 2004.

Clockwise from upper left: The Upper Landing as a former metal scrapyard and Superfund site; the public pier at Chestnut Plaza on the Upper Landing; the new Upper Landing neighborhood is home to 1,200 residents who enjoy its trails, park spaces, river valley views and proximity to downtown Saint Paul.

Upper Landing Features

Chestnut Plaza:
Chestnut Plaza reconnects Saint Paul to the river at the site of the original 1850s Upper Landing jetty, one of Saint Paul’s earliest riverboat landings and the highest navigable port on the Mississippi. The new $2 million plaza connects Upper Landing Park, local neighborhoods, Samuel H. Morgan Regional Trail and the Mississippi River to Shepard Road (Saint Paul’s Great River Road), the Science Museum of Minnesota, RiverCentre and downtown.

Seven Blocks of Mixed-Rate Housing:
Site developers responded to the challenges of river views and access for all residents, existing historic structures, and unique topography and soil conditions. Four different builders – David Bernard Builders, Centex, CommonBond Communities, and RMK Corporation – delivered a diversity of design, market appeal and price points, ranging from high-end market-rate condos to affordable rental units. The block adjacent to Chestnut Plaza includes loft style flats and 10,000 square feet of retail space, currently leased by a Caribou Coffee shop and AnyTime Fitness.

City House Municipal Grain Terminal:
Once listed as an endangered historic site, the municipal grain terminal on the Upper Landing is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been renovated as a park pavilion/trail head and interpretive center. The iconic City House is designed as a riverside event venue and to engage and educate visitors in the rich history of the site. Interpretive displays tell the story of Mississippi River ecology, the lock and dam system and the “working” river that gave birth to Saint Paul, the farmers’ cooperative movement, and the historic operations of the buildings.