A Fresh Bid to Fill Vacant Storefronts in St. Paul

By Josh McGovern

August 09, 2022

The St. Paul Downtown Alliance has launched a new initiative that will provide free, limited-term leases for a handful of retail businesses.



The St. Paul Downtown Alliance is dangling a new incentive to fill vacant storefronts in the city. Earlier this month, the alliance announced a plan to provide free, limited-term leases for up to 10 retail businesses in St. Paul. Known as the “Let’s Grow” campaign, the program is aimed at revitalizing downtown St. Paul, which has been grappling with vacancies off and on for years.

St. Paul Downtown Alliance president Joe Spencer says the organization has tracked about 350 storefront businesses throughout the pandemic. “We saw about 10% of them closed permanently,” he says. “On one hand, that’s less than people expected, but on the other hand that makes a big difference to lose 35 stores. It’s a big deal.”

The alliance hired former Saint Paul Port Authority president Lee Kreuger and NEOO Partners to negotiate the leases with landlords and recruit tenants. The strategy was influenced by similar programs in Denver and Seattle but tailored to the St. Paul downtown area, Spencer says.