By Jane McClure

Twenty-one small businesses, housing providers and organizations were awarded 2020 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grants and loans by the Saint Paul City Council on September 2. 

The STAR board this summer recommended a total of $1.35 million be divided among 16 projects. Mayor Melvin Carter added five projects to the list and reallocated $250,000 in unspent fund balances to bring the total awarded to $1.60 million.

It has not been a typical year for the STAR program, which is funded by the city’s extra half-percent sales tax. The COVID-19 pandemic forced all STAR board meetings online.

Sixty projects were submitted by the April deadline, two of which were later withdrawn. The top-ranked project citywide was Elsa’s House of Sleep, 1441 University Ave. The furniture store was awarded a $49,800 grant with an equal match to repair stucco, ceilings and floors, and install a new handicapped-accessible door and security cameras.

Ranked second was the Neighborhood Development Center, which received a $123,450 grant and $41,150 loan to build a new incubator for up to six businesses at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street. The match is $13.3 million. The project is part of a development with Wellington Management that will include affordable housing.

Placing third was NeighborWorks Home Partners, 533 N. Dale St., which received a $12,000 grant and has a $110,000 match to help low- to moderate-income homeowners replace their lead-based painted windows. To be eligible, owners of single- to four-unit dwellings must already be involved in a county window replacement program.


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Keg & Case Market
An amphitheater and other improvements at the Keg & Case Market (shown here when it opened in 2018) missed out on funding. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Ranked sixth was ESTHER Homes, which received a $17,600 grant and has a planned $17,600 match to rehabilitate a Saint Paul home. The transitional housing program is for pregnant women facing a crisis, so the address of the property to be rehabilitated was not made public.

Ranked 12th was Sun Foods in the Uni-Dale Mall, 554 University Ave., which received a $75,000 grant and $75,000 loan to install new signs, replace windows, do tuckpointing and make parking lot repairs. The match is $150,000.

Ranked 14th was Firebox Saint Paul, 1585 Marshall Ave. A $40,000 grant will be used to improve the grounds at the restaurant. The match is $10,000.

Ranked 16th was the Creative Enterprise Zone’s loan and grant program for small businesses in the West Midway area. The nonprofit’s request for a $100,000 grant and $100,000 loan was trimmed by almost $40,000 by the STAR board and then restored by Carter.

Carter partially funded five projects that had been shut out. One is Springboard for the Arts’ work to redevelop a former auto dealership at 262 University Ave. into an arts center with a public park. Springboard sought a $100,000 grant with a $190,000 match for the project. A $50,000 grant was approved.

The Asian Economic Development Association, 422 University Ave., sought a $205,000 grant with an equal match for murals, facade improvements, two parklets, benches and other amenities. The project was awarded a $75,000 grant.

The STAR board this summer recommended a total of $1.35 million be divided among 16 projects. Mayor Melvin Carter added five projects to the list and reallocated $250,000 in unspent fund balances to bring the total awarded to $1.60 million.

African Economic Development Solutions, 1821 University Ave., sought a $200,000 grant with a $200,000 match for loans for business improvements citywide. A $75,000 grant was approved.

Several local projects missed out on funding. They included eight requests from businesses on West Seventh Street. Two came from Keg & Case Market, 928 W. Seventh. The West Seventh/Fort Road Federation submitted a request for a proposed amphitheater. Clutch Brewing Company submitted a request for a second-story deck and staircase.

White Squirrel LLC was turned down in its bid for funds to convert the former West Seventh/Fort Road Federation offices at 978 W. Seventh into a music venue. 

West Seventh Dental, which is planning a mixed-use building at West Seventh and Douglas Street, missed out on two funding requests: one for the dental office and the other for the renovation of apartments that are part of the building.

Vine Park Brewing, 1254 W. Seventh St., saw its request for taproom and other building improvements rejected. Sibley Plaza’s Five Star Cafe, 2469 W. Seventh St., lost out on its bid for kitchen improvements. MyDog, a proposed dog day care at 1324 W. Seventh, unsuccessfully sought building renovation funds. RS Eden was turned down to fund a solar array on its building at 1362 W. Seventh.

Other local projects that were not approved for funding included Minnesota Museum of American Art’s renovation at 350 N. Robert St., Twin Cities Athletic Training at 400 N. Wabasha St., the J.J. Hill mural project for the school at 998 Selby Ave., and renovation of the 1913 building at Central Baptist Church, 420 Roy St., into office and retail spa


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