Business in Como Could Be Better, Studies Say
Sunday, November 12, 2017 6:00 AM

An aerial view of the Como/Front/Dale intersection.

Dale St. needs a destination or anchor business to improve its retail environment and draw more customers, according to a market analysis performed for the District 10 Como Community Council and the District 6 Planning Council. Meanwhile, the rest of Como has enough discretionary income to support additional specialty businesses, even though there aren’t a lot of places to put them, a companion study says.

The good news for Como residents is that the kinds of businesses that the studies say could work 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 Ave. and Topping St. 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.

One catch for Dale, however, is that 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. There’s one reason for that: Maryland and Dale is closer to the higher-income households of Como.

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. Como as a whole has a median household income 27 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. Dale is the boundary between Districts 6 and 10.

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, businesses such as 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.

Learn more
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.

The two studies were performed by the consulting firm of Perkins + Will. The firm’s Jay Demma will talk about the studies during the monthly District 10 Como Community Council meeting on Tuesday Nov. 21. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

Districts 6 and 10 paid for the two studies by combining their annual COPP grants from Councilmember Amy Brendmoen’s office. Demma will go more in depth about the Dale St. analysis at an open community meeting on Thursday Dec. 14, from 6-8 p.m., at the Saint Paul Public Works building, 891 Dale St. Also that night, representatives from Public Works and Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development will discuss their proposed plans for the Como/Front/Dale Commercial Vitality Zone project.

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

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