Payne Avenue: “it’s happening this summer”

Plaza Del Sol is a new hub of Hispanic businesses. The huge building has seen about $800,000 in investment in the past six months. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

The 41,000-square-foot, $14 million Arlington Hills Community Center will add to the momentum along the Payne Avenue commercial corridor. The facility is scheduled to open May 22. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Cook St. Paul, a new restaurant on Payne Avenue, just opened its doors last week. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

ESNDC identifies $25 million in corridor investments

Spring may be lagging a little, but John Vaughn can see the warmer weather ahead.

“It’s Payne spring,” he says, “it’s busting out!”

Vaughn, director of the East Side Neighborhood Development Company, is referring to a wide swath of developments slotted for Payne Avenue this summer.

And most of what he’s talking about isn’t developer pipe dreams -- rather, it’s existing projects that should all be coming to fruition.

In all, with public and private investment, Vaughn estimates there’s $25 million going into Payne Avenue this year. Even subtracting the $14 million from the new Arlington Hills Community Center, $11 million going into new home construction, business startups and other improvements is nothing to scoff at, he says.

The list has a bit of everything, including new housing developments, business facade renovations, a new parking lot for area businesses, and plans for a small park via the neighborhood’s own Payne Phalen Pocket Parks.

In Vaughn’s eyes, the momentum starts at Payne and East Seventh Street, and goes all the way north to the new Arlington Hills Community Center at the intersection of Payne and Maryland avenues. His $25 million figure comes from tallying up 12 months worth of investments along the 1.5-mile stretch of commercial corridor.

His organization -- the East Side Neighborhood Development Company -- is working on some of the projects. Some are the city’s doing. Others are neighbors’ efforts. And yet others are a combined effort between different organizations.

New home construction

In the throes of the Great Recession it was hard to imagine, but this May, seven new houses will be popping up just off of Payne Avenue.

According to Jim Erchul, director of Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing, the group will begin construction at the end of May on seven two-story houses.

The development is a combined effort between the city, Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, and the East Side Neighborhood Development Company. The city owns six of the seven lots, and is providing about $200,000 in financial aid for the project. Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing will act as the developer, and ESNDC’s brokerage will do marketing for the homes.

They should break ground this spring on the homes, and possibly have the houses on the market in the fall. Erchul predicted price tags of somewhere between $165,000 and $175,000, which is at the upper end of home prices in the neighborhood.

In contrast, the homes will cost close to $240,000 to build, Erchul said. That’s where the city comes in - they’ll be providing funding to make up for that gap.

Vaughn said there will be three other new homes built by Project for Pride in Living near Payne and Maryland avenues. Adding to that are a variety of house rehabilitation projects dotting the corridor.

New restaurants

It might seem a bit unusual to hear about a high-end French restaurant on Payne, but it’s coming, Vaughn said. Tongue In Cheek, a new restaurant touting terms like “Piece de Resistance” and “libations” will be open this summer.

The restaurant will be run by St. Paul restaurant veterans who’ve worked at W.A. Frost & Co. and other well-regarded restaurants.

Just down the street, another new restaurant called Cook St. Paul will make its debut in the space that used to be Serlin’s Cafe. The restaurant will feature American-style diner food with a touch of Korean fusion.

There’s also Otra Cocina, a Mexican restaurant near Payne and Maryland, the soon-to-reopen Schwietz Saloon, and several new businesses in the newly opened Plaza Del Sol.

Plaza Del Sol

In one of the largest buildings on Payne Avenue, a flurry of activity has been going on to bring in new tenants to the business incubator building known as Plaza Del Sol.

The building at 990 Payne Ave. opened to the public two months ago and houses two restaurants, a coffee shop, a beauty salon, and clothing stores.

Entrepreneur Sonia Ortega purchased the building, hoping to inspire a community of Hispanic businesses. The spaces she rents can be as small as 500 square feet, or up to 2,000. Other potential projects coming in include a printing company, a meat market, an immigration attorney and an insurance agency, she says.

“We’re trying to provide everything that the Hispanic community would need,” she says.

Thus far, Ortega said she’s invested about $800,000 into the building, which housed Borgstrom Pharmacy for many years.

Facade improvements

Thanks to some city Community Improvement Budget funds, two restaurants along Payne will get major facade renovations via ESNDC.

La Palma Supermercado will be getting a roughly $38,000 facade renovation, which will include new windows, new signage, new lighting and, perhaps most remarkably, a giant mural along a wall of the building. Anne DeJoy from ESNDC says the renovation will serve as a welcoming point into the East Side -- the restaurant sits near the intersection of Payne Avenue and Bedford street, just a few blocks north of where the commercial corridor begins.

Up the street, Sui Yep will get a less substantial but welcome facelift, including new signage.

Parking lot

Though they’re still working out the kinks, local businesses are working on getting a new parking lot for small businesses along Payne. The 40-car lot will be located on vacant lots behind the empty furniture store at Payne and Wells.

ESNDC and Mike Wagner, a property owner who owns the building holding Bymore Grocery at the corner of Payne and Wells Street, have teamed up on the project.

The lot could mean that Bymore Grocery could expand its business -- as it is now, the capacity is capped by the lack of on-site parking at the store.

Anne DeJoy, director of commercial development at ESNDC, said the project will cost about $300,000.

Park updates

In a sense, Payne is also looking to get a little bit “greener,” -- the Payne Phalen Pocket Parks group is eyeing a city-owned parcel at Payne and Minnehaha avenues. The group put up two other community parks last summer, including raised bed gardens at an apartment complex, and a community park on a vacant lot on Jessamine Avenue.

Though the group is still working on a lease for the lot, they’ve got a lot in store. Through a partnership with the East Side Arts Council, they’ll be putting in $15,000 worth of art into the new park and the one on Jessamine.

Also bolstering the park connections for the corridor, St. Paul Parks and Recreation is working on installing a trail connection between Payne Avenue and the Bruce Vento Regional Trail. The project has been on hold due to complications with the now-demolished “People’s Park” which was deemed unsafe by the city last year.

Community centers

Opening May 22 is the long-awaited Arlington Hills Community Center -- a $14 million city project that will include a library and a recreation center.

The 41,000-square-foot facility will include a variety of resources for youths, including a teen center, a kid-friendly library and a full scope of recreation facilities.

The creation of the new building means the old Arlington Hills Library will relocate to the center. But the historic Carnegie building won’t go unused -- instead, a group called the East Side Freedom Library will maintain it, running it as a labor history library, and holding community events. With the building needing a new roof which will cost about $130,000, Vaughn adds that into the investment along the corridor.

Looking at the development along Payne, Vaughn chalks it up to a lot of individual efforts growing into something bigger. And while it took years of effort, or in some instances decades, it seems to be really coming together, he says.

“I think we’ve kind of snuck up,” he says with a grin.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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