CRWD's COVID-19 Response 

Capitol Area Stormwater Management

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) and Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB) are partners on a stormwater management study to understand water quality and quantity issues in the Capitol Area and identify regional green infrastructure opportunities for improved stormwater management. The study area is approximately 333 acres including 60 blocks in the City of Saint Paul and has four distinct areas:

CAAPB completed its 2040 Comprehensive Plan for the Minnesota State Capitol Area in 2021. The plan seeks to transform the Capitol Area into a healthy community with vibrant public spaces, a range of movement options, diverse land uses and attractive buildings framing lively, pedestrian friendly streets. Projects in this area must apply a holistic lens of economic vitality, energy and environment, health, placemaking and communities to their design. Visions abound in the new plan, including restoration of a walkable diverse urban village pattern at the former Sears site, mobility hub and streetscape improvements in the Capitol Rice corridor, and planning for the landscape of the Capitol Mall.

CRWD and CAAPB believe that stormwater management strategies will be integral to achieving the broader vision and goals in the Capitol Area comprehensive plan. Key stakeholders of the study include State of Minnesota Department of Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County, large property owners such as Seritage (owner and developer of the former Sears Site), District planning councils, hospitals, families living several residential districts, and other community organizations.

The Challenge

With the exception of key opportunity sites such as the 18 acre former Sears site, the Capitol Area is fully developed, with very limited treatment of stormwater runoff before it reaches the Mississippi River. This study will lay the foundation for building future stormwater management practices in coordination with other area improvements, saving both time and money. The location of this study and subsequent projects will likely generate a lot of interest from stakeholders so regular communications will be important.

The neighborhoods in and around the Capitol include Areas of Concentrated Poverty (ACP50) where 50% or more of residents are people of color and 40% of residents live 185% below the federal poverty line. Careful, thoughtful, and inclusive planning will be important to avoid unintended impacts of urban redevelopment such as increased cost of living and displacement of residents.

12th and Cedar Street intersection

Rice Street METRO Green Line Station

"Many know this area as home to the Capitol and Minnesota’s front yard. Fewer know this ground as a place we have gathered, lived and worked since native Minnesotans first called the river and hills of downtown their home. Today, there are opportunities to form new stories, and to create a healthier and more unifying landscape. Thanks to the funding of the watershed, the starting point in the Capitol Area is to define excellence in how we manage Minnesota’s #1 natural resource." – Peter Musty, Principal Planner and Zoning Administrator, Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board

The Solution

The goal of the study is to create a framework for sustainable and resilient district stormwater management systems. District systems serve more than one parcel (public or private) and can provide additional functions and amenities beyond solely managing stormwater runoff. Green infrastructure practices protect, restore or mimic the natural water cycle by capturing stormwater runoff and reusing it, or allowing it to soak into the ground instead of flowing into storm sewers and the Mississippi River.

The study includes the following tasks:

  • Assessment of existing stormwater conveyance, management and water-related concerns in the Capitol Area
  • Development of area-wide stormwater design guidelines
  • Identification of district stormwater management system opportunities
  • Generation of ideas for context-sensitive management practices in focus areas
  • Estimation of the environmental-social-financial benefits of each district stormwater system in the Capitol area.

This study will help inform, guide and streamline stormwater management for Capitol Area redevelopment and transportation improvement planning efforts including the Sears Redevelopment Site and Purple Line Bus Rapid Transit.

An aerial view of the Capitol Area, the Minnesota State Capitol building is in the center with the downtown Saint Paul skyline and the Mississippi River in the background.
Stormwater management systems in the Capitol Area improve water quality in the nearby Mississippi River.

Project Updates

CRWD and CAAPB began the study in 2022. Initial tasks over the winter and spring include development of a stakeholder engagement plan and evaluation of existing conditions. In late spring 2022, CRWD and CAAPB will host a partner project kick-off meeting and tour of local precedent district stormwater management systems at Highland Bridge (former Ford site), Allianz Field, Towerside Innovation District and others. Please visit this web page for periodic updates of the project.