What's With St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone and Why Does It Matter?

What's With St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone and Why Does It Matter?

Are There New Directions for Minnesota Commercial Zones?Will the planned Minnesota commercial real estate projects breathe new life and energy into the creative zone, or do they spell a change of direction for local "makers" who might be priced out of the zone that was intended to encourage affordable live and work spaces?

Will High Prices Lead to Dying Creativity?

Rising prices, high demand and new development costs have all been cited as elements that contribute to the current high, and continually rising prices for housing in the Twin Cities and throughout the nation. The dilemma of shrinking opportunities for medium-to-lower-income renters is not limited to specific areas, however, and solutions are not easy.

Affordable housing initiatives that require a certain percentage of units in new developments be set aside as "affordable" are only a band-aid for a major wound, according to critics. In other areas, however, creative live-work spaces and "enterprise zones" allow residents to define their lifestyles in ways that don't fall into easy categories. That is the vision for the area in the residential and commercial area in Ramsey County between Raymond Avenue in St. Paul and the Minneapolis line. The former warehouse district north and south of University Ave. has been known as the Creative Enterprise Zone for years.

It is a sometimes seedy, sometimes exciting, district that attracts a virtual kaleidoscope of residents, artists, startup firms, creative media types, light industry and others who thrive on the different and the unusual. There is little separation in the area between the workaday world and weekend or "off-duty" lifestyle. The preservation of this kind of distinctive culture has sparked a move that is designed to strengthen the vitality of the zone and preserve it for future creative uses. Through a community-driven development effort, the board of directors of the Creative Enterprise Zone announced that a sum of $205,000 has been secured to fund the effort.

A Diverse Coalition for Growth

Public input is invited to help develop strategies, mobilize support, define possibilities and work toward the defined goals. Current funding will be used to hire a staff person tasked to pursue local ownership of creative maker spaces, and with the goal of boosting operating income through other local real estate strategies.

The national Local Initiatives Support Corp. provided a one-year grant, and the following foundations offered two-year grants: The McKnight Foundation, St. Paul Foundation, Bigelow Foundation and the Mardag Foundation. Public donations are also encouraged. Anyone interested in learning more or participating in other ways is encouraged to contact Creative Enterprise Zone, a non-profit organization headquartered in St. Paul.

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