Informed by extensive analysis and community engagement, report outlines three priorities to further density, vitality and desirability downtown

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance today released its new, first-of-its-kind Downtown Investment Strategy, informed by community engagement, market analysis, an economic impact assessment and extensive input from downtown Saint Paul stakeholders. The report outlines three key priority areas for the public and private sectors to work on together to dramatically increase density, vitality and desirability downtown: office-to-residential conversions; public realm enhancements; and predevelopment efforts for downtown Saint Paul’s most strategic redevelopment opportunities.

“This strategy builds on decades of planning work, with the goal of bringing together property owners, government entities, nonprofits, business organizations – anyone who has a stake in downtown’s success – to all move in the same direction under one collective vision,” said Joe Spencer, president of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done together to create this guiding strategy and am thrilled to see the urgency with which our partners are looking to implement it.”

The process

In 2023, the Alliance brought together the City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Saint Paul Port Authority, Saint Paul Area Chamber, Saint Paul Building Owners and Managers Association, Visit Saint Paul, CapitolRiver Council, Knight Foundation, Metropolitan Council, and business leaders from the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance board to begin the process of creating a Downtown Investment Strategy. The steering committee was co-chaired by Chris Hilger, president and CEO of Securian Financial, and Christophe Beck, president and CEO of Ecolab. It also hired a team led by urban strategy consulting firm James Lima Planning + Development, along with the local Minneapolis office of global design firm Perkins+Will and Saint Paul-based real estate and engagement firm NEOO Partners, to produce the analysis of priorities and conduct engagement.

“The work we did in partnership with our consultants and the community was crucial to ensuring that we were prioritizing the opportunities for downtown Saint Paul based on their equity and inclusivity; their direct and indirect economic impact; and their potential to catalyze new investment,” said Hilger. “We are grateful to everyone who participated in a focus group, took a survey or helped us shape this strategy for the good of our downtown.”


Based upon national precedents, local data analysis, stakeholder perspectives and community input, the strategy outlines the following priorities:

  • Office-to-residential conversions: Implement an office-to-residential conversion incentives program to create housing and density, balance the supply of and demand for downtown space, support downtown businesses, and strengthen the commercial office market.
  • Public realm enhancement: Invest in pedestrian-oriented streetscape improvements guided by a public realm framework focused on key connector streets within downtown.
  • Predevelopment efforts: Take tactical, early-phase actions to continue to advance downtown’s most strategic redevelopment projects and opportunities (Central Station, the Park at RiversEdge and underlying parking ramp, and an entertainment district tying the Xcel Energy Center to the core of downtown).

Some of this work is already underway, with Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announcing just this week during his State of Our City address that the City is partnering with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority to develop an office-to-residential conversion program to increase density, support downtown businesses and make the commercial office market more competitive.

“Residents in cities across the country are understanding anew just how critical a thriving downtown is to a city’s overall health,” said Mayor Carter. “Coordinating across sectors on these three key priorities will bolster our efforts to add density and vitality downtown.”

The Alliance will be holding a gathering this spring to do a deep dive into the report and answer questions from community members. To learn more and to read the Downtown Investment Strategy, visit