For every South St. Paul resident who’s wished this business or that shop was just around the corner, here’s your chance.
The city will host an open house at Central Square Community Center Jan. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. to present concepts and receive input from residents on how best to move ahead with its goal of breathing new life into the Southview-Marie area of town.
The city began actively exploring redevelopment of the Southview Boulevard and Marie Avenue corridor — and surrounding blocks — last fall. The area is defined as ranging approximately from Third Street North to Third Street South and from Second Avenue on the east edge to 14th Avenue on the west.
Results of a city-conducted survey following a previous open house on the subject held last October showed residents’ top concern for the area was the gaps in retail options, followed by the deteriorating condition and blighted appearance of some properties.
To that end the Housing and Redevelopment Authority has already acquired several dilapidated properties with the intention of marketing them to developers. The city also demolished the former Big John’s Bar at Southview and Ninth Avenue this summer, which many residents bemoaned as an eyesore and a magnet for rowdy patrons.
Not surprisingly, residents listed retail as the most desired type of redevelopment, followed closely by new restaurants. Multi-unit residential buildings and other commercial venues have also been suggested as viable options.
Finding a niche
City Planner Peter Hellegers explained redevelopment options for the corridor are somewhat limited by the smaller lot sizes in the area, which make it difficult to accommodate large-scale commercial enterprises.
“It’s just not big enough to do a lot of commercial development,” Hellegers said.
The lack of traffic may also pose a problem. Chain restaurants such as Applebees and Buffalo Wild Wings usually require a minimum traffic flow of at least 20,000 vehicles in an area before opening a new location. Studies from 2011 show about 10,700 vehicles pass through the Southview-12th Avenue intersection, and 5,000 vehicles cross Marie and Seventh avenues.
For these reasons, Hellegers said the corridor will probably see more success as an “anti-Robert Street,” referring to the corridor in neighboring West St. Paul that hosts major retailers like Walmart, Target, Home Depot and others. Hellegers said a redeveloped Southview-Marie are would likely focus more on smaller, independently-owned businesses.
“That probably makes you emphasize things with more character,” Hellegers said.
Ultimately, however, Hellegers said the corridor should grow to serve the interest and desires of the people who use it most, making events like the upcoming open house all the more important.
“The more input we get, the better it makes it in terms of reflecting what people want in the area,” Hellegers said.
Luke Reiter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org  or at 651-748-7815.