Let’s Grow campaign will leverage ARPA funding and matching funds from the Knight Foundation to expand Safe and Clean program; adds retail pop-ups and public space activations
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance today announced phase two of its plan to spark downtown Saint Paul’s economic recovery as the city continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Let’s Grow campaign will bring new life to empty storefronts by hosting local businesses and boosting community engagement in public spaces through events, art installations, and activations, all while continuing to promote downtown Saint Paul.
“Thanks to our incredible business community, city elected officials, and the Knight Foundation, we have been able to nimbly and effectively respond to the pandemic’s impacts downtown,” said Saint Paul Downtown Alliance President Joe Spencer. “As workers return to their offices, new restaurants open their doors and events come back in full swing, we are seeing downtown Saint Paul return to the vibrant place that we love so dearly. This next phase of work is aimed at continuing to build on that positive momentum, bringing new activity to our downtown spaces.”
The initiative builds on the Alliance’s Welcome Back Saint Paul campaign, which launched in 2021 and hosted and promoted more than 300 events across downtown, added 12 Street Team ambassadors, and brought three times more traffic to the capital city compared to summer 2020. This work has been supported by $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, a matching $1 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and $1 million from the downtown business community.
Bringing energy to retail and public spaces
The Alliance plans to host five to 10 businesses in currently empty retail spaces across downtown Saint Paul for six-month stretches of time. Lee Krueger, former president and CEO of the Saint Paul Port Authority and current president of Krueger Real Estate Advisors, along with D’Angelos Svenkeson and his team from NEOO Partners, have been hired by the Alliance to lead the effort. So far, two businesses – Ramadhan Designs and 2043 SBC – have signed leases to set up shop in the Treasure Island Center and Wells Fargo Place, respectively.
“As a refugee, Saint Paul was the city that welcomed me, and I’m proud to continue to call it home,” said Rammy Mohamed, a couture and custom fashion designer and the founder and owner of Ramadhan Designs. “As a small business owner, having a space downtown is beyond anything I ever could’ve imagined. I’m looking forward to welcoming customers for fittings and to shop, and to bring the fashion community to downtown Saint Paul.”
Art installations are also going up across downtown as part of this work, including the outdoor office space “Future of Futures” from Amanda Lovelee and Emily Stover at Osborn370, and Girl Friday’s 25-foot installation in the Securian Financial 401 Building. Additional pop-up programming on 7th Place Mall and Wells Fargo Place will be installed in the coming weeks.
“Local businesses and artists are leading Saint Paul forward as we continue to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic,” said Jai Winston, director of Knight Foundation’s Saint Paul program. “Knight has been a longtime supporter of building a stronger and more inclusive downtown Saint Paul, and this is exactly what the Let’s Grow campaign will do. We look forward to seeing how this initiative will empower our entrepreneurs and creatives in making our city even more successful.”
Knight Foundation has invested in the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance since its inception in 2018 to support the creation of the Saint Paul Downtown Improvement District, which was officially formed in January 2021 and delivers over $1 million in safe and clean services for downtown annually.
Continuing to invest in an expanded Safe and Clean program
The Alliance will also continue to staff an expanded Street Team beyond the borders of the Saint Paul Downtown Improvement District, thanks to $1 million of ARPA funds from the City of Saint Paul. This expansion will bring the team to more than 20 full-time members who provide wayfinding for visitors, keep streets clean, and act as an extra set of eyes and ears for the Safety Communications Center and Saint Paul’s police, social workers, and public safety partners.
Let’s Grow, Saint Paul
In partnership with downtown institutions, artists, and musicians, the Downtown Alliance will continue to host its calendar of events and activations happening downtown – including the newest addition: free roller skating every Friday night in Rice Park. Visit growstpl.com or follow the Alliance on Facebook and Instagram for updates.
About the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance
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. For more information, visit stpdowntownalliance.org.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
We are social investors who support a more effective democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. Learn more at and follow @knightfdn on social media.