Rice Park Revitalization

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Together with our partners, the Saint Paul Garden Club and the Rice Park Association, the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy pulled together to raise $1.35 million for the Rice Park Revitalization Project.

Our heartfelt thanks for all of the gifts made toward the Rice Park Revitalization Project!  With your support, we were able to match $1.0 million from the City of Saint Paul to bring the revitalization into reality in 2019.  We also have established a $250,000 fund with the Saint Paul Foundation as a resource for additional maintenance and upkeep ensuring the park stays looking as beautiful and  inviting as it does today.



Rice Park has served as the first city public square, the centerpiece of downtown Saint Paul since its designation in 1849. Today the park is alive, hosting daily visitors, weddings and annual festivals making it a four season destination which has provided more visitors to Rice Park than ever before. Over time the current Rice Park infrastructure, which includes irrigation and electrical systems that have become too expensive to repair or unrepairable and are in need of major improvements. The current design of Rice Park was not intended for the heavy 24/7 daily multi-use, pedestrian traffic flow, and the future local, regional and national events planned for the Twin Cities. The revitalization of Rice Park will complement the focused investment in downtown Saint Paul, providing a welcoming space for all members of the community to enjoy the heart of the city.

Our goal in helping the City raise these funds is to ensure that Rice Park remains a beautiful gathering space for all to enjoy. Support from past donors and new friends alike was  the key to our success.  Thank you!

See the Rice Park Revitalization plans here.

Since 1849, nine years before Minnesota was admitted into the United States of America, Rice Park has served as the centerpiece of downtown Saint Paul.  Rice Park was named after Minnesota Senator Henry M. Rice who, with Saint Paul banker John Irvine, donated the land in the downtown district.   In 1860 the city planted shade trees and in the early 1870’s a bandstand and fountain were added.  Rice Park served as the focal point for the first Saint Paul Winter Carnival in 1886.

By 1920 three of the City’s most significant buildings bordered the park; the Romanesque Revival Federal Courts building (1902), the Italian Renaissance Revival Saint Paul Hotel (1910), the Renaissance Revival Public Library (1917), and the adjoining James J. Hill Reference Library (1921).

In 1965, the Women’s Institute of Saint Paul spearheaded a major renovation of the par.  The Institute donated the park’s dramatic centerpiece, a fountain with the Alonzo Hauser bronze sculpture “The Source”, which is set within a circular plaza.   The fountain, together with “The Source”, continues to be the focal point of Rice Park.  Park benches and paths were replaced in 1980.  In 1996, a bronze statue of F. Scott Fitzgerald was installed to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.  In 2000, the park was made accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by removing hardscape in and around the fountain plaza.  Bronze statues of the Peanuts characters created by Saint Paul cartoonist Charles Schulz were added in 2002 to the delight of the young and old.

Rice Park was recognized in 2011 as one of the “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association.  Having undergone several transformations during its 173 years, Rice Park illustrates how planning, with the support of dedicated citizens can ensure the longevity and vitality of a community treasure.

For years, Rice Park has served as a centerpiece for downtown Saint Paul, hosting daily visitors, weddings and annual festivals that have made it a four season destination.  New programming, including additional festivals and events, has provided more visitors to Rice Park than ever before.  The last major upgrade to the park was in 1965.  Since that time the neighborhood has developed around it, beginning with Landmark Center in 1978, followed by River Centre, Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild National Hockey League franchise, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and Landmark Plaza, along with the addition of over 20,000 residents who have chosen to live in and invest in downtown Saint Paul.

Rice Park is a nexus linking Saint Paul’s impressive historical buildings and cultural gathering places.  It provides a visual and physical respite from the busy street life surrounding it.  It is a well-used park that serves a broad, diverse audience and is an important component of numerous public events, including the Winter Carnival, Flint Hills Children Festival, the Ordway Summer Dance Festival and many more.

The park is in need of updates and improvements beyond the reach of annual maintenance.  The wear and tear on the park has been noted by the Saint Paul Garden Club’s volunteers who have spent countless hours over the years planting and taking care of the park.  The club’s volunteers have seen first-hand how the park is used and abused.  The park never has a day off.  During the week, those who visit or stroll through the park find it hard to navigate from one area to another.  As a result “cow paths” are prevalent throughout the greensward.  The turf is worn, bare or muddy.  The lighting is a major issue at night.  It is inadequate, which is a major issue at night for the many surrounding venue visitors and neighbors, who avoid the park for that very reason.  The magnificent architectural features embracing the park are obstructed by tree overgrowth, adding to the perception of an unsafe area.  Those commuting via Metro Transit have no easy access to the park to enjoy a visit before they board their bus.  Evening and weekend destination visitors find the same frustrations.

The businesses surrounding Rice Park, who participate in the Rice Park Association, are concerned about its present condition.  They observe and experience Rice Park at all times of the day and night.  Their customers, visitors and event attendees have voiced similar frustrations as the Saint Paul  Garden Club has observed.

The redesign adds more green space for family gatherings and public events, electrical upgrades with additional lighting and trees for shade in the fountain plaza.  A new irrigation system will ensure adequate moisture for the green space, trees and garden areas, resulting in a healthier, more colorful and beautiful Rice Park.  The existing fountain will remain with the addition of artistic, seasonal light features.  The plaza will receive new permeable paving, signature tables and chairs plus a new east-west pathway from Market and Washington Streets to better connect the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and The Saint Paul Hotel.  The location of the stage and open lawn areas provide an area for concerts, dramatizations and other artistic expressions, while enhancements to the electrical power adds to the event capabilities in the park.

Other project elements include more gardens, giving the park the constant color and interest throughout the year, safety bump outs at all four corners, a reconstructed seat wall at the bus stop, more welcoming entry points and so much more.

To view the Rice Park Revitalization PDF with all the planned improvements click here.

The funding for the Rice Park Revitalization Project will come from both the private and public sectors in the amount of $2,424,000.  City leaders have long realized that Saint Paul alone was not able to provide adequate funding for creative and expansive park enhancements.  Community leaders and private funders are essential to making the Rice Park Revitalization Project a reality.

  • Budget
  • Project Management & Administration – $100,000
  • Demolition, mobilization, permits – $200,000
  • Grading & Utilities – $100,000
  • Electrical & Lighting – $334,000
  • Paving & Sidewalk – $725,000
  • Landscaping – $150,000
  • Furnishings – $ 25,000
  • Design & Art – $250,000
  • Contingency – $290,000
  • Construction Total – $2,074,000
  • Maintenance & Upkeep Fund – $250,000

Note:  Project management & administration expense includes fundraising costs for carrying out the Rice Park Revitalization campaign.

All construction costs have been estimated by the City of Saint Paul as part of the plan development.  Design and art refers to artistic lighting element that is planned for the fountain and other arts-related elements within the plan. Construction contingency is 14% of the construction budget.   Maintenance and Upkeep Fund refers to the funds being raised by Rice Park Revitalization to support annual maintenance in the park.

The revitalization of historic Rice Park involved public and private stakeholders.  Extensive community outreach and a series of public meetings led to the plan for the revitalization of the park.

As part of the plan development, the City Parks and Recreation Department conducted a survey of businesses and residents in Saint Paul.  The City, the Saint Paul Garden Club and Rice Park Association hosted a series of community meetings to gain input from all stakeholders in the project.  The outcome is the plan on which the Rice Park Revitalization is based.

A collaborative partnership between Saint Paul Parks Conservancy, the Saint Paul Garden Club and Rice Park Association has been formed to raise $2.4 million.  With the City’s support, it is the hope to bring this plan to reality in 2018.

The partners will continue to provide private stewardship and oversight of Rice Park, in partnership with the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department to address maintenance and safety issues in the park and support new park activities and daily use.

Saint Paul Parks Conservancy is a 501(c)3 non-profit, charitable organization.  The Conservancy supports the City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department‘s goal of promoting active lifestyles, vibrant places and a vital environment.  Working in partnership with other community organizations, the Conservancy secures private financial support for park projects throughout the community.  In 2015, the Conservancy wrapped up a three-year project to improve Lilydale Regional Park.

The Saint Paul Garden Club is a volunteer organization whose members reside in Saint Paul and the surrounding communities.  The mission of the Saint Paul Garden Club is to stimulate the joy of gardening and to promote horticultural knowledge; to encourage the best in design, creation and development of public and private gardens; to restore, improve and protect the environment through action in the field of conservation, civic plantings and educational programs; to share the advantages of association by means of meetings, conferences, correspondence and publication.  The Saint Paul Garden Club is a member of The Garden Club of America, a 200 volunteer member organization with over 18,000 members.

Rice Park Association is a member organization of neighbors surrounding Rice Park and the adjoining Rice Park area.

City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, is very much in support of this project and appreciates the involvement and excitement that multiple vested partners in this project have brought to the table.  The City’s funding commitment is similar to other project partnerships where city sources still need to be identified and will be identified at the same pace as the private funding.

To make a pledge or donation to the Rice Park Revitalization Project, contact
Larry Dowell, Campaign Manager, at 651-221-0852
Dee Schutte, Account Manager by phone at 651-300-6598 or
by email dee@stpaulparks.org.


Rice Park Revitalization

380 Jackson Street, Suite 287

Saint Paul, MN  55101

Why does Rice Park need revitalization?
Rice Park has served as a centerpiece for downtown Saint Paul since its designation in 1849 as a public square. The last major upgrade to the park was over 50 years ago (1965).  The neighborhood around the park has developed (Landmark Center, River Centre, Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild NHL franchise, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and Landmark Plaza) while the park has seen only routine maintenance.  Rice Park is a critical component of many community events and that, along with daily traffic in the park, have taken a toll on the hardscape, landscape and infrastructure.  It is in great need of upgrades and improvements beyond those of annual maintenance.

Who are the key organizations and/or partners in the project?
The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy, a 501c3 non-profit organization, Saint Paul Garden Club, Rice Park Association and the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department.  Our leadership and fundraising team also includes representatives from the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, The Saint Paul Hotel, Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation and Myers Communication.

What is the City of St. Paul’s financial commitment to the project?
The City’s Parks and Recreation Department estimates the project cost at $2.42 million.  Private fundraising efforts are committed to raising $1.35 million.  The City’s portion of the project cost is $1.0 million.  The City’s commitment is similar to other project partnerships (e.g., Frogtown Park and Farm project).  City sources are being identified at the same pace as the private funding.

What are the sources of the private funding?
To date we have secured over $1.35 million from private individuals, corporations and foundations.  A list of the organizations and individuals who have contributed are available on our donor recognition page.

Are there elements of the project that will make the park safer?
The concept plan for the park employs Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.  These internationally adopted practices are employed to discourage and limit opportunities for criminal or negative behavior by designing the physical environment to encourage ‘positive’ behavioral effects (http://www.cpted.net/). For Rice Park, proposed design considerations include increased lighting, improved landscaping, and access controls, which are included in the City of St. Paul’s adopted CPTED principles (https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/police/excessive-consumption-services/cpted).

What population does Rice Park serve?
Rice Park is a well-used urban park that serves over one million visitors annually.  It is the host site for Winter Carnival, the Ordway’s Flint Hills International Children’s Festival, Rice Park Tree Lighting Ceremony, Oktoberfest and other events.  It is used by people coming downtown for athletic events, theater productions, concerts, conferences, community events and festivals as well as guests and diners of the Saint Paul Hotel.  It serves as an outdoor space for local citizens to enjoy regardless of social or income status.

What will the economic impact be?
The design for Rice Park follows the 8-80 Principles, a key initiative of Mayor Coleman “to promote economic development by increasing activity and vitality on our streets and public spaces throughout the City of Saint Paul”, for all citizens. In upholding CPTED and 8-80 Vitality Principles, Rice Park will continue to serve all public members on a daily basis as a place to gather, sit, and enjoy the outdoors as it was initially founded to do in late 1880s as a shared public green space.  There has not been a determination of an increase of planned events after improvements are made, but we estimate this would occur.

Will improvements to the park result in lower operating and/or maintenance costs?
The City’s operations staff has determined that there would be a 25% savings of water (and cost) if a new irrigation system is installed at Rice Park.  Upgrades to the lighting employ today’s advanced technologies for more efficiency and reduced electrical costs.

When did the vision/project begin?
In 2014, the Saint Paul Garden Club took a critical look at the park’s condition and engaged the Students for Design Activism, a volunteer graduate student organization from the University of Minnesota’s School of Design, to create a conceptual plan with input from the Garden Club.  The students created a conceptual plan, which was used as a springboard to create interest and excitement for the revitalization of Rice Park.  From that point, the Rice Park Association, the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department and the Garden Club agreed the park needed revitalization and partnered to bring forth the plan designed by landscape designer, Anne Gardner, from the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Design and Construction Department.

Is there a plan for sustainability?
A $250,000 maintenance and upkeep fund is included in the project’s budget to protect the initial investment.  Anticipated in the planning process, this fund will be managed by a third party, to supplement the Park’s routine maintenance.

How will donors be recognized?
A list of donors and associated giving levels will be listed on our website and in future reports and publications.  Large donors will be recognized at our upcoming events and at the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy’s Annual Meeting.  A formal donor recognition policy is available upon request.