The plaza is the brainchild of Max Musicant and the Musicant Group, an interdisciplinary property-management group specializing in finding ways to energize public and outdoor spaces.
Working with the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Musicant secured a $75,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to cover a grassy but otherwise barren downtown corner with 1,300 square feet of concrete, as well as cafe-style seating, a handful of oversize umbrellas, nine Adirondack chairs, two sets of a beanbag-toss game, and a few other activities.
“Pop-ups at Central Station” — a summer series of concerts and enjoyable distractions — was born in late July. Grant funding will continue the programmed events through at least Sept. 29. Get ready for African dance on Aug. 25, clowning on Sept. 1, Brazilian music, drumming, Latin theater and more.
“None of this is chained up at night,” said Musicant, who pitched the idea of a free outdoor lounge in the heart of downtown as a way to cut down on minor crime and obnoxious behavior. “We’re inviting people to use it, and that’s also a deterrent to take it. The whole strategy is positive activity drives out negative activity. … It’s colorful, it’s bright, it’s lively.”
The vacant, city-owned land was once occupied by a private parking lot that extended behind an old Bremer Bank building, which was torn down to make room for Metro Transit’s Central Station Green Line light-rail platform. Most of the surrounding property is owned by Metro Transit, whose development office is still figuring out what to do with it.
“It was sort of stuck in limbo,” said Musicant, noting that the site effectively connects a skyway bridge, a light-rail platform, Minnesota Street and a bus stop. “There was an increase in bad behavior.”
As of late July, food trucks now roll in from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays. Live performances from local acts take place the same hours on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Science Museum of Minnesota plans to staff a trivia booth at least six times through September. Students from the McNally Smith College of Music will serenade audiences.
On Wednesday the Twin Cities ukulele artist known as Marlowe (nee Marlowe Teichman) will perform songs from her Christmas album and self-titled EP. On Friday, local performer Mira Kehoe will present her interactive art exhibit “Planting Seeds for Change.”
More information is at Facebook.com/popupsatcentralstation.