June 17, 2021
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – This spring, the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance and St. Paul Area Chamber surveyed downtown residents, employees and patrons to gauge comfort levels and sentiments on current plans around attending events, patronizing businesses, and returning to work. The survey results overwhelmingly show that people are ready to return to downtown.
The survey, conducted April 20-May 7, 2021, was part of a larger effort by the International Downtown Association to survey downtown stakeholders across the U.S. and Canada as COVID-19 restrictions shift and economies reopen.
“While this survey provides insight into a brief snapshot in time as the recovery from the pandemic progresses, we are heartened by our community’s desire to return to our libraries, museums, sporting events, restaurants and gathering spaces that fuel our economy and make our downtown special,” said Joe Spencer, president of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance. “Our #WelcomeBackStPL campaign is geared toward creating a safe, fun environment for everyone who lives, works and plays in downtown.”
The majority of the downtown Saint Paul survey respondents were either vaccinated or intended to get vaccinated, and overwhelmingly responded as very likely to visit restaurants, retail shops, outdoor festivals, farmers markets, museums, and other public spaces, as well as hotels, private offices, and short-term rental properties. And 82% of respondents wanted to keep expanded outdoor restaurant seating on sidewalks and parking spaces either permanently or during certain times.
The survey also asked about return-to-work plans and preferences. Seventy-eight percent of respondents worked from home during the past year, with 18% reporting as physically back to work full time and 58% planning to return to the office on a regular basis in the next six months. Seventy percent of respondents prefer a hybrid approach going forward, working from home or remotely some of the time. Fifty-four percent said their workplace is indeed adopting a hybrid approach, with 30% undecided, 14% returning to the same model as before and only 3% moving exclusively to remote work. Additionally, only 15% reported that their office space would likely to shrink due to COVID.
“We can take the best from 2020, which has been all about adaptation, and bring it forward. The hybrid work model allows for maximum flexibility while still ensuring a continued commitment to our office spaces,” said B Kyle, President and CEO of the St. Paul Area Chamber. “Downtown Saint Paul continues to be the center of culture, excitement and innovation, and employers already are embracing this mindset.”
As employees and visitors consider returning to downtown Saint Paul, the many respondents voiced feeling less safe than before COVID-19. This was a common perception around all respondents across the U.S. and Canada. To address and improve these perceptions around safety, the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance has launched a #WelcomeBackStPL campaign to bring people and activity back downtown, with more than 300 events and activations this summer and fall. The campaign also includes an enhanced clean and safe program, with an additional 18 street team members out and about downtown in brightly colored shirts, picking up litter, removing graffiti, and connecting with public safety and social outreach when needed.
To learn more about the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance’s #WelcomeBackStPL campaign, visit welcomebackstpl.com.