St. Paul testing out downtown business improvement district

May 07, 2019 06:33 PM

Saint Paul is looking at establishing a downtown improvement district similar to the one in Minneapolis.

The stewardship program will start in June as a pilot project and last through August. 

"We're going to look at what works, what doesn't," said Joe Spencer, president of the St. Paul Downtown Alliance. 

The  St. Paul Downtown Alliance is responsible for bringing a downtown business improvement district to the city.


"It's a really common tool to really help attract more investment and employers," Spencer said.  "Visitors just to come and enjoy the downtown."

With the improvement district, five full-time employees in blue uniforms will target different parts of downtown, including Rice Park, Landmark Plaza, Central Station, and Hamm Plaza.

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"Making sure the graffiti comes down immediately, picking up garbage immediately," Spencer said. "They're going to be in certain key strategic areas just helping to take the quality of the public space up to the next level."

The Downtown Alliance is also partnering with the St. Paul Farmers Market to bring flower sales to public areas, and a local artist who's putting a mosaic cover over the trash cans.

"St. Paul is about the 61st largest city in America, literally every city larger than St.Paul has one of these improvement districts," Spencer said. 

Once the pilot program is finished, the Downtown Alliance plans to evaluate how it went to determine whether a more permanent plan should be in place. 

In Minneapolis, the ambassadors wear the neon green shirts for the Downtown Improvement District. They do everything from picking up litter to giving people help with directions. The Downtown Alliance is a nonprofit that was started in 2008 and is paid for by taxes collected from owners of commercial property in the 120 block area of Downtown Minneapolis.

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Brett Hoffland

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