Little Mekong Plaza opens with vibrant cultural celebration
New gathering space will reflect one of Saint Paul’s most diverse neighborhoods
Mayor Chris Coleman and other city leaders today (September 29, 2016) celebrated the grand opening of Little Mekong Plaza, a vibrant outdoor gathering space along the Green Line in one of Saint Paul’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods. The new green space – which includes public art, decorative water features and a bridged walkway – will host a number of community events each year. It replaces a building that had been vacant since 2006, and is one of the first privately owned public spaces on University Avenue.
Little Mekong Plaza was made possible with an investment from Mayor Coleman’s 8 80 Vitality Fund. The fund was created to help move projects forward that promote a livable city for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
“Through Little Mekong Plaza, we were able to work with our local community partners to transform an underutilized space into a vibrant place where all community members can gather, connect and celebrate the culture that makes our city thrive,” said Mayor Chris Coleman. “This is the type of work that moves our community forward.”
Located near the intersection of University and Western Avenues, Little Mekong Plaza reflects the Hmong, Vietnamese, and other ethnic and immigrant communities that live and operate businesses in the area. Today’s grand opening celebration included a traditional Hmong dance from students at the Community School of Excellence, a plaza dedication by a Hmong shaman, and food and refreshments provided by businesses in Saint Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood.
“Hosting everything from dances to performances and even some delicious traditional food, Little Mekong Plaza will be a valuable asset for our community,” said Va-Megn Thoj, executive director of the Asian Economic Development Association. “We have an incredible opportunity to create an inviting, inclusive place that celebrates the cultural diversity of our city.”
Little Mekong Plaza is the first privately owned public space in Saint Paul. The property is owned by Hmong American Partnership, and will be programmed and maintained by them and other community partners, including the Asian Economic Development Association.
“This plaza is about more than replacing a vacant building. It’s about creating a space that supports our neighborhood’s identity and is welcoming to all,” said Bao Vang, CEO and president of Hmong American Partnership. “Public spaces can transform a community, and private businesses and community organizations need to do their part to create and support them.”