The Central Selby Association (CSA), in collaboration with our organizational partners, engages businesses, community organizations and residents in the Summit-University neighborhood to develop the Selby Avenue Cultural District between Dale Street and Lexington Parkway. Centered on the corridor’s African-American artistic and cultural history, this project supports the group’s short term goals of the creating of a unified brand for Selby Avenue, the development of integrated marketing efforts for businesses and organizations along the street, and the creation of arts and culture activities to drive patronage to the avenue. This project also lays the groundwork for the group’s long term goals of the reduction of the number of persistently under-utilized vacant properties, increasing the visitor-ship and pedestrian traffic and building the community capacity to grow, nourish and replenish arts and cultural activity on Selby Avenue.
This project serves the corridor by enhancing the appeal and livability of the neighborhood to residents, the vibrancy and visibility of its cultural organizations and the success of its businesses. Through these efforts, the project supports the corridor in becoming a cultural tourism destination that drives patrons to the avenue and sets the stage for future development opportunities. The target audience for this project is the businesses, organizations and residents who live on and around Selby. The project intends to engage these groups as members of CSA and create a mutually beneficial relationship where residents can engage in dialogue about avenue enhancement, where cultural organizations can showcase their programs and businesses can access integrated marketing.
The targeted revitalization of Selby Avenue as an African American Heritage Corridor – Commercial District is inherently collaborative. CSA itself was created through conversations between Mychael Wright, owner of Golden Thyme Café, and other business owners on Selby Avenue. While each member had visions for their businesses, they worked collaboratively to create a group that is inclusive, taking each stakeholder’s interest into account in planning sessions. The organization seeks input from sources with vested interest in the well being of Selby Avenue and the community members who call it home. Because each member of CSA and its partners has a voice, CSA is malleable and adjusts to market demand and need while remaining true to the overarching objective to revitalize Selby Avenue with focus on improving the quality of life for the local African American community.
The development of Selby Avenue as an African American Heritage Corridor – Commercial District is also resourceful because the project focuses on leveraging resources that already exist within the community. The resources that stem directly from the community itself include a history of community strength through commercial and residential ownership opportunities, the creation of strong social networks and capital, and the community members’ ability to be self-sufficient and provide the local community with the products and services they need. Additionally, the project benefits from foundation support, collaboration between nonprofits, the sense of a shared heritage, and an overarching focus on reducing economic and racial disparity. Finally, while the many vacant lots and buildings on Selby Avenue can be seen as a detriment, they are also a resource for targeted development and interim use while the Selby Avenue African American Heritage Corridor – Commercial District is in its early development phase.
COMMERCIAL VITALITY ZONE (CVZ)
The CVZ program is an annual fund of $750,000 through the City of Saint Paul used to invest in neighborhood commercial districts that promote vitality, growth, and equity. It is funded by an annual sales tax revenue account from the City of Saint Paul’s ½ cent local sales tax (Sales Tax Revitalization, or STAR). The first year of implementation was in 2015, and in 2017 this program awarded a grant of $312,500 to the Central Selby area.
CVZ funds will allow for improvements in the district surrounding these current investments that further catalyze their impact by enhancing access and improving connectivity. CVZ will also help implement the neighborhood’s plan, the Summit-University (District 8) Plan from 2009, which outlined several economic development strategies, including:
- Prioritizing commercial development on vacant lots and buildings west of Dale Street
- Fostering “cultural tourism as an economic driver for business and workforce development”
- Work with Selby Avenue representatives to “move forward ideas and initiatives that promote Selby Avenue’s revitalization, [and]…
- Continue efforts to foster minority business start-ups, retentions, and expansions from within the community.”
For more information about the CVZ allocation, please visit: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/economic-development/commercial-vitality-zone-program
The Central Selby Association will use these funds to promote the CSA as a unified brand for businesses along Selby, as well as to support a variety of improvements outlined as major goals of the Selby Avenue Cultural Corridor. With CVZ funds, the CSA has a greater capacity to address its larger goals and to further encourage a thriving business corridor along Selby Avenue.
RONDO CLT and CHDC SELBY MILTON VICTORIA (SMV) PROJECT
The Rondo Community Land Trust, in partnership with Community Housing Development Corporation, is developing the Rondo Commercial Land Trust Project to minimize the threat of gentrification. The project is two-fold, to create a model for affordable commercial and residential space, and to test that model through a demonstration project on Selby. The Neighborhood Development Center will provide business recruitment, training, and support to local and minority owned businesses. This is just one project, but it is representative of the team’s objective to address racial and economic disparity.
The Rondo Commercial Land Trust Project is just one piece of the broader African American cultural and business development along Selby. The theory behind the development is to engage the African American community to reinvest in their own community, rather than waiting for market forces.
An immediate benefit of the project is community participation in the planning process. Community stakeholders provide input into the development and decision making processes, something that has historically been out of reach of minority and disadvantaged communities.
By partnering with NDC, minority business owners will also be recruited and trained in effort to create and sustain wealth and opportunities for the Rondo community. Locally owned businesses understand the needs and condition of their community and will be able to strengthen networks by providing services that benefit the local community and broader public. Through the successful operation of retail, restaurants, professional and local services, business owners can expand economic mobility for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Long-term benefits of the project include permanently affordable commercial space for local area business persons, local employment opportunities, and increased affordable housing options. Business owners and professionals will serve as mentors and role models for community youth, and commercial land trust model is transferable and can be used on other neighborhood commercial streets.
Through the Rondo Commercial Land Trust Project, Rondo expects to stabilize and revitalize the Selby Avenue Commercial Corridor by providing long-term affordable commercial space and additional affordable housing units. Because the planning process is inclusive, the community will benefit and take ownership of the project. Rondo will recruit and train small minority business owners to create stable business plans. The neighborhood will benefit long-term from permanently affordable commercial space, local employment opportunities, and affordable housing options. Business owners and professionals will serve as mentors and role models for community youth, and the commercial land trust model can be used as a template for other neighborhood commercial streets experiencing local reinvestment pressure.