West Seventh Companies in St. Paul are petitioning to join the Downtown Improvement District

A number of West Seventh Street businesses have petitioned to join downtown improvement district st. Paulea fee-based business association that employs street team greeters or ambassadors and provides services such as litter and graffiti cleanup.

It will take several weeks for the City Council of St. Paul to formally approve the new district boundaries down to Grand Avenue, which come with financial considerations for area businesses. However, some services were already launched on May 1 through leftover grants awarded last year by the Knight Foundation.

These services include a link to the Downtown Safety Communications Center, a civilian public safety center at 401 Robert St. that works closely with the St. Paul, because he coordinates the private security teams. Patrick McGovern’s Pub and Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub were among the West Seventh bars they signed up for.

Joe Spencer, the former director of arts and culture for the mayor of St. Paul, Chris Coleman, was named president of St. Paul Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit organization that recently formed to support businesses in downtown St. Paul. Spencer has been involved in a dozen major downtown projects, from the expansion of the Ordway Center to the Palace Theater, and has helped recruit many new bars and restaurants to Lowertown. (St. Paul Downtown Alliance)

Joe Spencer, president of St. Paul Downtown Alliance — which launched the district in 2021 — said inclusion requires at least 25% of businesses in a given area to petition for the new boundaries. So far, about 35 percent of the businesses in the newly proposed area have filed petitions with the city.

“We have United Hospital, a hotel, a couple of bars — a good cross-section of support,” Spencer said. “We have been talking with these owners for several months. A few owners who are really careful about their spending will have some reservations, but most people are either explicit about it or more passive about it, but they didn’t want to send the petition.”

The self-governing district is run by the private sector and chaired by Clint Blaiser. For businesses, annual dues amount to about 6 cents per square foot and $13 per linear foot of street frontage.

In 2022, according to the Downtown Alliance, street team ambassadors were on the ground downtown between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. weekdays, picking up more than 284,000 pieces of trash and removing more than 1,500 pieces of graffiti. They also provided over 600 referrals and 1,900 hospitality escorts.

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