A total of 21 projects will share in Saint Paul’s 2022 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) funding, which was approved by the City Council on November 9. The vote ends a competitive process that began last spring.
The highest-ranked local project was Vina Restaurant, 756 S. Cleveland Ave., which came in third overall. Vina was awarded a $100,000 grant and $100,000 loan with a $284,566 match to make its front entry accessible and add accessible restrooms, reconstruct its kitchen and add code compliant kitchen features.
Billy’s on Grand, 857 Grand Ave., ranked fifth. DWD Group sought funding to resurface walkways, including the entrance from the patio, replace flooring, update electrical panels and replace kitchen equipment. The award included a $50,000 loan and a $50,000 grant with a $50,000 match.
Mayor Melvin Carter added conditions to Billy’s award. The longtime Grand Avenue business is undergoing review of its city licenses in light of repeated complaints about license violations. Carter asked that the STAR funding be placed in contingency for use on security improvements as recommended by the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections and Police Department until licensing processes are successfully completed.
Ranking eighth was FilmNorth, 550 Vandalia St. The nonprofit was awarded a $40,000 grant and has a $1.07 million match to improve a vacant storefront in the nearby Creative Enterprise Zone for filmmaking classes, workspace, a cinema and an outdoor gathering space.
Mayor Melvin Carter added conditions to Billy’s award. The longtime Grand Avenue business is undergoing review of its city licenses in light of repeated complaints about license violations.
Walker West Music Academy ranked 18th with its request for funding as part of an $8.1 million capital campaign to purchase and renovate a former Wilder Foundation building at 650 Marshall Ave. A $40,648 grant and $40,648 loan will be matched with $5.92 million. The STAR funds will be earmarked for building renovations.
Ranking 20th was the Twin Cities Housing Development Corporation, which was awarded an $81,296 loan with a $625,000 match to help with conversion of first-floor former retail space into eight affordable housing units on Selby Avenue and Milton Street as part of the new Selby Wilkins project.
The Neighborhood STAR fund requests totaled $6.19 million. The 21 chosen projects were awarded $611,561 in loans and $1.36 million in grants. Matches for the chosen projects total $13.4 million.
Forty-eight proposals were not recommended for funding. Local projects that were shut out this round include outdoor classroom space at Groveland Park Elementary School, Keystone Community Services’ new food shelf, and improvements for the Science Museum of Minnesota, Little Mekong business district, Minnesota Museum of Art and Victoria Theater.
Housing projects that were not funded include Women’s Advocates and new sober housing at Mary Kay’s Place. Area small businesses with requests not funded include Alary’s, Nothing But Hemp, Rouge Urban Salon, Trapped Puzzle Room and Plant Bar Cafe.
STAR funds come from the city’s extra half-percent sales tax implemented in 1993, with half of the proceeds going to neighborhood projects and the rest split between Saint Paul RiverCentre and cultural projects. The 2022 round marked the program’s 28th funding cycle.
— Jane McClure
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