St. Paul seeks management partners for Highland Park, Phalen Lakeside pool houses

St. Paul Parks and Recreation is looking for a management partner or two to add year-round services and programming to the Highland Park Pool House and the Phalen Lakeside Activity Center.

The city issued two separate requests for proposals this month seeking new visions for the longstanding parks facilities, which the city “hopes to reimagine and revitalize … with partner organizations and the community,” according to a recent announcement from Parks and Rec.

The solicitations, which were issued Jan. 3 through the St. Paul Bids page, are open through Feb. 3. Parks and Rec Director Andy Rodriguez met with a handful of organizations last week during informational site visits held at each location.

The Highland District Council, a neighborhood organization, details some of the history of the Highland Pool House on its website. The pool bathhouse was constructed from limestone at 1333 Montreal Ave. by Edgcumbe Road in 1936, one of many Works Progress Administration construction projects backed by the federal government to boost public employment during the Great Depression.

‘Historic resource’

The building is not registered as historic with the National Register of Historic Places, though the city has labeled it a “historic resource.” The facility closed in 1979 when the Highland Park Aquatic Center opened, and the pool house is now used by Parks and Rec for storage.

Nearly a decade ago, Friends of Highland Arts proposed a public-private partnership that would program the Highland Pool House with an art gallery, live music and walk-up food service. An upstairs space could house educational classes, and Parks and Rec could sell seasonal permits and offer cross-country ski rentals.

In their concept planning, the outdoor area could host limited cafe-style seating, a performance venue and outdoor movies or fitness in the parks, as well as perhaps an activity area for disc golf. The Highland District Council issued a resolution in support of the Friends of Highland Arts’ vision in September 2015, but nothing moved forward.

Phalen Lakeside Activities Center

The Phalen Lakeside Activities Center — otherwise known as the Phalen boathouse — at 1530 Phalen Drive was constructed in 1983 and has no historical designations.

It hosts several Parks and Rec camps during the summer, including volunteer-driven sailing instruction, as well as a handful of special events such as Waterfest and Freezefest.

Over the past decade, according to a Parks and Rec spokesperson, the facility has been used off and on by various organizations on a contract basis, including a charter school’s solar boat building program, and a Junior ROTC sailing program. The facility is not regularly staffed by the Parks Department.

The boathouse was converted this winter into a temporary emergency warming house for the homeless.

The two requests for proposals seek “a vision to leverage surrounding parkland in patrons’ experience” or “draw lakeside views into the patrons’ experience,” respectively. They also ask for an operational plan that demonstrates both a welcoming, open and accessible community environment and a sustainable business model.

That includes “diversifying and expanding affordable recreational activities” and “opportunities to host groups and classes” that welcome diverse groups of people year-round.Related Articles

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