City Lays Out Ideas for Como, Front and Dale
Sunday, December 17, 2017 6:00 PM

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Recommendations include higher visibility striping for crosswalks, painted extensions of the Como Ave. bike lanes through the intersection (green), and eliminating the dedicated right-turn lane from Como onto westbound Front (blue).

Saint Paul city staff are recommending five infrastructure projects for Como, Front and Dale in 2018. The projects would by funded through $350,000 in Commercial Vitality Zone money authorized by the City Council in 2015.

During a community meeting Dec. 14 at the Public Works building just south of the intersection, project manager Andy Hestness from Planning and Economic Development, and Reuben Collins from Public Works, proposed these projects:

  1. Eliminating the right turn lane from southbound Como to westbound Front, and instead expanding the pedestrian island and shortening the crosswalk on Como
  2. Painting higher-visibility crosswalks in all current locations, and painting stop bars on the pavement, in hopes of discouraging vehicles from encroaching on the crosswalks
  3. Painting green lane extensions across the intersection for the Como bike lanes
  4. Installing landscaping, especially at the child-care center and between the sidewalk and parking lot of the strip mall on the northeast corner
  5. Moving the bus stop on northbound Dale from in front of the strip mall to the other side of the intersection (in front of John’s Pizza Café).

The meeting attracted about two dozen residents and business owners.

Also making presentations during the meeting were Ben Hartberg, from Calyx Design Group, and Jay Demma, from the consulting firm of Perkins + Will. Hartberg  will lead public and private landscaping efforts at the intersection. He said the area needs more of an identity, and suggested that a more attractive intersection not only has aesthetic benefits, but also could increase pedestrian traffic, which could improve business, improve safety and reduce crime.

Demma gave an overview of the market analysis he conducted of the Dale Street corridor between Maryland Ave. and Topping St. His analysis says Dale St. needs a destination or anchor business to improve its retail environment and draw more customers. Perkins + Will performed the analysis under contract for the District 10 Como Community Council and the District 6 Planning Council. Dale is the boundary between Districts 6 and 10.

A companion study says the Como neighborhood in general has enough discretionary income to support additional specialty businesses, but there aren’t a lot of places to put them. The good news for Como residents is that the kinds of businesses that could work, according to the studies, line up with the kinds of businesses Como residents say they want in the neighborhood. These include a moderately sized, full-service grocery; small restaurants and coffee shops with a local focus; and a taproom.

The studies are part of an ongoing effort by the Como Community Council to build a foundation for additional business investment and amenities in the neighborhood.

What could work where
The Dale St. study says a full-service grocer or a drug store could anchor the retail corridor between Maryland and Topping. It suggests the “trade area” could support a 20,000-30,000 square-foot grocer, restaurants totaling between 35,000 and 50,000 square feet, and a small number of health- or personal-care stores.

There is one catch for Dale, however: Although the Como/Front/Dale intersection has the more established retail center, a grocer is more likely to succeed near the Maryland intersection, the study says. The main reason for that: Maryland and Dale is closer to the higher-income households of Como. Median household income in District 10 is 27 perecent higher than the city as a whole, and is growing faster than in the city as a whole, according to census data.

Most of those higher-income households are between Dale and Lexington, bounded by the BNSF tracks south of Maryland, and Larpenteur on the north. That one census tract has an estimated median household income 72 percent higher than the city average. By comparison, the three census tracts closest to Como/Front/Dale have median household incomes ranging from 51.6 percent below the citywide average to a modest 6.5 percent above.

Location isn’t everything
The generally higher incomes in Como also are the reason District 10 residents could support additional businesses near Front and Lexington, Como and Snelling, or elsewhere in the neighborhood, even though those “nodes” lack the traffic counts and other advantages Dale has, the studies say. “Higher incomes mean there is more discretionary income to spend on various retails goods and services,” the study of District 10 says.

With that kind of potential customer base, taprooms or locally focused restaurants and coffee shops are examples of businesses “that can survive or even thrive without being located in a traditional retail location,” the study says.

The two studies also examine traffic, employment, and population trends, plus challenges such as the “leakage” of retail dollars out of Saint Paul into the shopping areas near Lexington and Larpenteur and elsewhere in Roseville.

Districts 6 and 10 paid for the two studies by combining their annual COPP grants from Councilmember Amy Brendmoen’s office.

(In the right column, you can download PDFs of the two studies, plus a slide show Demma gave to the District 10 board on Nov. 21.)

Updated Dec. 21, 2017

District 10 Como Community Council | 1224 Lexington Pkwy N, Saint Paul, MN 55103 | 651.644.3889 | district10 [at] district10comopark.org

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