Payne Avenue leaders trying out new strategy to revitalize


Marjorie Otto/Review • A group of local business and property owners, residents and developers, is asking Payne Avenue stakeholders to join in creating a strategy to attract and retain businesses on Payne. The effort is called Payne Avenue Reboot and is based off Main Street America principles for community building.

Business owners, property owners, developers and residents are working to develop a new strategy to continue to revitalize the economy of Payne Avenue and the nearby neighborhood. 

The plan is called Payne Avenue Reboot and is being spearheaded by a group of four individuals who have their hearts set on making Payne Avenue pop. 

 

Learning something new

The effort is being lead by Chad Medellin, one of the owners of Caydence Records and Coffee, Anne DeJoy, director of commercial development at East Side Neighborhood Development Company, Dimitri Hatzigeorgiou, a property owner on Payne Avenue, and Stephan Kistler, a photographer and resident. 

The four of them attended a workshop in June in Mankato about a revitalization program called Main Street America. The program is lead by the National Main Street Center. 

Essentially, the program uses a four-point method for a “targeted transformation of commercial/downtown districts.”

The four points include economic vitality — build a diverse economic base, and a strong “economic ecosystem;” design — celebrate historic character and create a people-centered, friendly atmosphere along the street; organization — build strong leadership and organizational capacity and ensure broad and inclusive community engagement; and promotion — market the defining aspects of the corridor and support a “buy-local” experience. 

According to Main Street America, the strategy has been successfully used in many cities across the U.S. 

DeJoy and Medellin said that while the strategy was helpful and applicable to Payne Avenue, much of the focus of Main Street America was for small, rural towns — meaning it didn’t take into account other aspects like public transit, crime and safety, larger populations, or the intense diversity on the East Side. 

“When a lady goes, ‘My town is a town of 3,000 people,’ and I go ‘I’ve got 600 people living on my street’ ... it’s a little bit different,” Medellin said. 

After doing some digging, the group found that the National Main Street Center has a program tailored for places just like Payne Avenue, called Urban Main. 

The plan addresses the aforementioned issues and more — things like the availability and quality of affordable housing, parking issues or a lack of local jobs.

“It’s taking the really good setup we have here and elevating it through cooperation on all fronts — from the people who live here, to the business owners to the property owners and everyone in between,” Medellin said. 

Many of the details of how the strategy will be implemented are not yet known, as the group of four has just started the work. 

It’s trying to gather as many business and property owners, residents and other stakeholders along Payne Avenue to start brainstorming. The four plan to hold a retreat this fall — sometime after the Harvest Festival — to flesh out details and create a personalized plan of attack using the Main Street and Urban Main principles. 

Someone from the Urban Main program will also be coming out to do an overall assessment of Payne Avenue — identifying dilapidated buildings, highlighting observed characteristics, while taking stock of what Payne has to offer and what can be worked on. 

Overall, some of the main goals DeJoy said the group will be focusing on is attracting businesses that will bring jobs, filling vacant spaces and sustaining businesses. 

Medellin added that there will be an effort to attract diverse businesses and businesses that are affordable and will fit in a working class neighborhood. 

For example, he said they don’t necessarily want to see 10 cell phone stores or expensive boutiques come in just for the sake of filling vacant spaces. They want things like grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and other useful, affordable businesses. 

 

Bringing it back

DeJoy said there used to be a similar type of main street revitalization project many years ago through Local Initiative Support Corporation, a Twin Cities nonprofit focused on supporting community development. However, funding for it was cut and the program disbanded. 

She added that while the East Side Neighborhood Development Company does similar work, she said it’s only able to do it at a piecemeal level, one project at a time. The Urban Main strategy looks at places as a bigger picture, she said, explaining that it also addresses things like public art and the overall streetscape appearance. 

Medellin said this is the first time the specific Urban Main program is being used in the Twin Cities and he hopes Payne Avenue can serve as a poster child of its success. He added that once the Payne Avenue work is off the ground and running, the next step will be to use a similar approach for Arcade Street. 

He said he thinks the Urban Main strategy will have success because of the type of people East Siders are. 

“We take care of our own,” Medellin said, adding there is already a strong culture of supporting local businesses and a strong desire to clean up the neighborhood while keeping it an affordable place to live. 

“We’re all really hopeful,” he added, pointing out that he and the other leaders are hoping for a “Payne Avenue rebirth.”

For those interested in collaborating with the group, the leaders of the initiative said the easiest way to get in contact is to reach out to any member of the Payne Arcade Business Association or to attend one of the association’s meetings. More information can be found at www.paba-stpaul.org.

Those interested can also reach out directly to DeJoy at 651-288-8744 or ADeJoy@esndc.org, or to Medellin, who said it’s easiest to catch him in person at Caydence, at 900 Payne Avenue.

 

– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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