Saint Paul's Skyways Public Hearing

The Capitol River Council will hold a public hearing tonight (Monday, July 7, 2008) regarding Saint Paul’s skyways, the attempt to create within them consistent hours of operation, and requests by a series of buildings seeking to be exempt from the plan. 

Approved by both the St. Paul City Council and Mayor Chris Coleman, the plan is to make all of the skyways open everyday from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. The main goal of the ordinance is to avoid the skyway network from becoming fragmented by buildings at key junction points closing their skyways at odd hours, confusing people and forcing them to go outside in the winter, probably unexpectedly.  However, the plan includes a way for buildings to try to get out of it, subject to City Council approval. Certain buildings at the ends of the network of indoor sidewalks are expected to be able to make a good argument that their walkways aren't heavily traveled or essential to the larger network. The Capitol River Council, hosting the hearing tonight, makes recommendations to the City Council.

The initial wave of requests for exemption were from Saint Paul’s City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse, the Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, and St. Joseph's Hospital, and were all expected for obvious reason.  Some are offering an after-hours skyway escort service for people who need it.

The current round of requests includes Macy's, which is expected to receive permission to close the skyway through its store at the time of store closing to prevent merchandise from becoming the target of thieves. Other buildings requesting different hours are: The Gilbert Building, Metro Square, Sibley Square and the Minnesota Children's Museum.

One Saint Paul building seeking an exception which may cause more of a disruption is The Golden Rule, which is the skyway's only connection to the city-owned Robert Street Parking Ramp.

The issue isn’t all cut and dry, however.  While the skyways inside the buildings are generally owned by the buildings, the city has easement agreements with many of them, guaranteeing public access in a similar manner as, say, a sidewalk. But those agreements aren't all the same, which can lead to even more problems as buildings can then make up their own hours.  Lawyers are trying to sort it all out.

The public hearing occurs from 5-7 p.m. today at the First National Bank Building, Room N110, off Robert Street between Fourth and Fifth streets.

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