I want to extend my sincere gratitude to SPACC members in downtown Saint Paul who responded to our request for feedback on the skyway system.
There are many conversations happening around the performance of the skyway system, and SPACC needs to ensure that we speak on behalf of our members, so your input is vital! We are actively engaged in the dialogue, including the City’s Skyway Vitality Workgroup, and will continue to share your concerns and ideas. Here’s a summary of what you told us.
Benefits and drawbacks
Your staff, customers, and visitors use the skyway system daily. Employees in particular appreciate being able to walk to and from parking, restaurants, and meetings without dealing with inclement weather. Some of you mention that employee recruitment is facilitated by being connected to the skyways, others say it is not a factor. In your own words, “skyways are essential during the winter months,” they bring “significant benefits of convenience and comfort,” and are a “huge selling point for events and conferences.”
Many of you noted, often vociferously, behavioral problems in the skyway such as littering and sleeping. You also report more serious incidents in some areas of the skyway, often found when staff arrive in the morning. We know that elected officials, City staff, police, and others who are deeply involved in the skyway conversations are aware of these issues, and we will continue to ensure that these issue and concerns are heard. One of you reports, “The skyway is at the worst it has ever been.”
Certain areas of the skyway deal with safety issues. Your staff and visitors sometimes avoid those areas by choosing to take other routes, including walking street level. Some of you have lost business due to perceptions that your area of the skyway is unsafe, and one of you is changing locations for that reason. We have noted these areas and will share them with the stakeholder groups.
Other areas of the skyway function very well. They are clean, well-lit, safe, and sparkling with activity.
You want to see more retail and events in the area, to make it a more vibrant place. In your own words, “The areas where there are no tenants seem abandoned and depressing.”
Skyway opening and closing times
The majority of you work in offices where the workday ends around 5pm, and you are not concerned with the idea of skyway owners being able to close their sections of the skyway earlier than the current 2am requirement.
Out of a total of six residential building and hotels that responded, five were in favor of allowing skyways to close earlier than 2am.
Two of you noted that you would like the skyways to open earlier, like 5am, for employees who like to start the work day bright and early. This makes me happy that I don’t work with those people, they would make me look bad.
Some of you mentioned that all skyways should post clear signs with their hours of operation.
A mixed bag
Your thoughts on security presence in the skyways are mixed. Some of you think there is great police and security presence, others of you ask “what security presence?”
As for signage, your thoughts are again mixed. Some of you say the skyways are very easy to navigate, others say the opposite.
Maintenance issues run the gambit as well. One of you described the condition of carpets and window, litter, etc. as “hit or miss.” Some areas of the skyway are well cared for, while you see that others need better carpet, paint, or litter pick-up. A large majority of you say lighting and temperature control is good.
Some of you are interested in kiosks or farmers market stands in the skyways, but most of you encourage focus on the skyway’s other (security and management) needs first.
Building and business owners do not all understand the division of responsibilities between yourselves and the City when it comes to space in the skyways. Many of you state confusion about who is responsible for what. The City is holding a series of conversations with building owners so that everyone is on the same page – if you are a building owner and have not heard about these conversations (one has been held so far), let me know.
So what do we do with this information? First, we’ll keep talking to you to make sure your voices are heard. If your concerns were not addressed in this summary, give me a call. We’ll share these results with the other stakeholders, especially City staff and elected officials. We’ll work with the City and others to come up with ways, big and small, to make the skyways a place that everyone is comfortable using.
Many of you stated appreciation that these issues are being discussed, and we will definitely keep up the conversation!
Two final thoughts
Check out Eric Dayton’s “A farewell to skyways: The case for bringing them down” in the Star Tribune. While I normally steer clear of comments to news articles, the comments are worth reading to get a sense of the many opinions on skyways and to think about how the skyways might function differently in Saint Paul than in Minneapolis.
And finally, one of you suggested fun architectural amenities in the skyways, for example the Children’s Museum section could look like it was made of Legos, or the section to Union Depot could look like a train crossing. Only one of you mentioned this but I like it and I’m writing this blog post, so I get to call it out!