St. Paul’s Grand Avenue is struggling, but it could learn from 50th & France in Edina

St. Paul’s struggling Grand Avenue looks to 50th and France in Edina for solutions

St. Paul's struggling Grand Avenue looks to 50th and France in Edina for solutions

Business struggles on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue have forced multiple closures recently, but the community may find answers in Edina.

St. Paul city leaders said 50th & France is what they want Grand Avenue to be: busy with foot traffic, lit-up storefronts and high demand.

On 50th & France, you can take your pick, whether it’s seeing a movie at the Edina Theatre or stopping by a restaurant.

“There’s shops, lots of people and things to do,” Ben Johnson, who works on 50th & France, said.

Johnson has something to compare it to. He used to work on Grand Avenue in St. Paul and now he works in the Edina shopping corridor.

“I think it’s a lot easier to walk around here and there’s a lot more parking around here,” he said.

With the recent store closures on Grand, St. Paul leaders are looking across town for help.

“They’re part of our community. We want to find ways to help them and I think from our standpoint, there’s a playbook here that can probably be used over there,” said Peter Deanovic, 50th & France Business Association president.

Deanovic explained giving Minnesotans a reason to stop and stay with an array of choices is driving success.

“50th & France was largely from the service-based industry of hair and nails and maybe some convenient grocer. Now it’s to something that’s more focused on how do you make an evening of it? Maybe on the weekend, how do you make an entire day of it?” Deanovic said. “Restaurants are a tremendous driver of footfall here.”

The shops and restaurants lining the streets are only a piece of the puzzle.

Deanovic said events and programs also draw people in and Grand Avenue adding a plaza or gathering place could have the same result.

The 50th & France Association explained after the pandemic, the demand for smaller storefronts skyrocketed, and those spaces drew in more customers.

Free parking was also a big part of their success.

“I would say 100% that experiential-based retail corridor is what we’re going for,” St. Paul City Council Member Rebecca Noecker said.

Noecker, who represents Ward 2, said there are plans to do construction on Grand Avenue to make it more welcoming and enjoyable.

“With our sales tax passing last fall, Grand Avenue is one of those streets that’s going to be reconstructed,” she said. “That means we have the opportunity not just to redo the street itself, but also to redo the sidewalks to widen them and make that a more enjoyable walking experience, to plant trees, to add lighting and benches.”

RELATED: Task force formed to address Grand Avenue business closings

Noecker explained within the last couple of weeks, she has seen a willingness to take action from multiple organizations and community members who want to be a part of the change.

“We all need to be in this together, and we are,” she said “I’m especially hopeful when it comes to Grand Avenue. I think the fact that it is such a beloved community area that people recognize the uniqueness of the corridor and the fact that it’s really a special place.”