The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance is a nonprofit organization that represents downtown businesses, nonprofits, government entities, residents, and entrepreneurs. Together, we work to build a strong and vibrant downtown, creating a positive downtown experience for all.

The Downtown Alliance is the outcome of a year-long community-based process spearheaded by the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation that brought together government agencies, businesses, residents, and other stakeholders to create a vision for the future of downtown Saint Paul.


The mission of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance is to create and maintain a vibrant, economically successful, safe, and attractive downtown that benefits the entire city and region by:

Our Value

When a city’s downtown center is thriving, so are its surrounding communities. We believe that our work to strengthen the vibrancy of downtown Saint Paul will ultimately benefit the entire city and region.

Our Team

Mr. Spencer profile

Joe Spencer

For more than a decade, Joe Spencer has engineered growth and vitality in downtown Saint Paul. As president of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, Joe works across public and private sectors to build a strong, vibrant downtown and create a positive experience for visitors, residents, and workers alike. Joe has been instrumental in strengthening public/private partnerships and leveraging diverse economic opportunities for the benefit of the entire city. Since 2018, Joe has advocated for loosening regulations on signage, sidewalk retail, and liquor licensing to improve the downtown business environment; engaged residents, businesses, and law enforcement agencies in critical public safety conversations; and piloted the Streets of Summer program, which tested the potential of a downtown improvement district, bringing engaging activities and friendly street ambassador staff to the public realm. Following the successful pilot program, Joe assisted a group of property owners who voluntarily formed a Downtown Improvement District in 2020 to increase safety, cleanliness, and vibrancy in downtown. Joe is also leading an effort to ensure that downtown Saint Paul is positioned to successfully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and safely welcome back the tens of thousands of workers and visitors who frequent downtown. Prior to serving as president of the Downtown Alliance , Joe served as director of arts and culture under former Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. He played an instrumental role in 10 major capital projects downtown that were financed through grants and other innovative fundraising, including the Ordway Concert Hall, Palace Theatre, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum. He also helped launch a diverse array of new music festivals that attract more than 100,000 visitors to downtown each year. Additionally, he recruited dozens of new bars, restaurants, venues, and creative businesses to downtown Saint Paul. An active member of the community, Joe serves on the Saint Paul Area Chamber Board of Directors, Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation Board of Directors as well as many community and regional committees and task forces.
Mrs. Burns profile

Emma Burns

Director of Operations
A lifelong Saint Paul resident, Emma Burns is a motivated startup specialist who has devoted her career to serving her community. As the project manager for the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, she works to increase the vitality and economic success of downtown Saint Paul for everyone. Emma leads several efforts and initiatives in her role at the Downtown Alliance aimed at increasing safety, cleanliness, and vibrancy in downtown Saint Paul. She planned, launched, and executed the Streets of Summer program, and was critical to the research and coordination of the business-led effort to petition for the Saint Paul Downtown Improvement District. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emma has served as a boots-on-the-ground advocate for downtown businesses. Her efforts continue to support and prepare downtown to come out of the pandemic successfully once workers and visitors return. Prior to joining the Downtown Alliance , Emma worked for two local retail startup companies, improving customer experiences, expanding into new markets, increasing efficiencies, and promoting community engagement opportunities. Emma serves on the Visit Saint Paul Board of Directors and is a graduate of the Saint Paul Area Chamber’s Leadership Saint Paul program. In 2021-2022 Emma will be a member of the International Downtown Association Emerging Leader Fellowship. She is an avid knitter with a startup of her own, Aquarius Knitwear, and lives in Saint Paul with her husband Trevor and her dog, Juno.
Mr. Bandemer profile

John Bandemer

Director of Safety Strategies
With more than three decades of experience, John Bandemer has dedicated his career to keeping the city of Saint Paul safe. As director of safety strategies for the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, John oversees a team of street ambassadors and staff who act as conveners for the social service providers, private building security teams, and Saint Paul Police Department when it comes to responding to and communicating about issues that arise within the Saint Paul Downtown Improvement District (SPDID). John directs the Safety Communications Center, which brings together public safety agencies and private security teams to track and share data, communicate issues, and develop innovative solutions to public safety within the SPDID. The Safety Communications Center is a key initiative of SPDID, which was formed by the Downtown Alliance and property owners in the district. Prior to working at the Downtown Alliance , John was Senior Commander, Chief of Staff and Executive Officer to Police Chief Todd Axtell. Over the course of his career, he served in multiple districts and specialized units and coordinated a multi-agency task force to combat human trafficking in the region.


The Downtown Alliance serves the downtown core, from Lowertown to the West 7th entertainment district.