West 7th businesses oppose SPDID expansion

Business owners along West 7th near downtown have asked the city to put the brakes on a proposal to expand the downtown St. Paul Downtown Improvement District (SPDID). 

The proposed expansion area includes businesses bordered by Kellogg and Grand Ave. to I-35E and Exchange Street. 

Dave Cossetta, owner of Cossetta’s at 211 West 7th St., said in public testimony on July 19 that he would like the issue held over by the City Council until the business owners have a better understanding of what they are being asked.

“The Majority of the landowners are not aware of the details of the proposal,” he said, adding that at least two property owners have withdrawn their support of the expansion.

Along with Cossetta, some of the building owners who’ve submitted formal opposition to the proposed expansion have tenants like Tom Reid’s, Downtowner Woodfire Grille, Patrick McGovern’s, Apostle Supper Club, the Downtown St. Paul Holiday Inn and Maharajah’s.

At issue is the exact area the expansion will encompass and the cost calculations for the property owners. 

The SPDID was launched in 2021 as a self-imposed, self-managed effort, led by the private sector, to increase safety, vibrancy and cleanliness in downtown. The program is voluntary, with participating businesses contributing based on their building’s square footage and street frontage.   

Cossetta said he would need the formula for how their contribution was calculated, including how their square footage and street frontage were calculated, before he’d be willing to consider the expansion.

“We are requesting a layover until September to understand what we are paying for,” he said. 

In May of 2023, the SPDID expanded into the West 7th area with support from the businesses. The initial expansion was funded through a grant from the Knight Foundation. 

Participation in the SPDID provides additional services to the area, from trash and graffiti cleanup to having street team ambassadors providing directions to visitors and being an extra set of eyes and ears for public safety. 

Because it is a voluntary program, at least two-thirds of businesses in a district must agree to participate. Some of the businesses included in the proposed expansion include Allina Health, Children’s Hospital, Hampton Inn and Suites, Maharajah’s, Patrick McGovern’s and Tom Reid’s.

The City Council agreed to layover their public hearing on the issue until the July 26 council meeting to allow additional time for business owners time to assess their interest in participation.

“This is a voluntary program,” said Council President Amy Brendmoen. “If the support’s not there, the support’s not there.”

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