St. Cloud's 'poor stepsister' no more: East Side Boosters resurrects to spur change
Jenny Berg, Saint Cloud Times Published 1:57 p.m. CT Nov. 28, 2018
ST. CLOUD — Ten years ago, the East Side Boosters fizzled out. Members had accomplished a lot — cleaning up the neighborhoods, creating a transportation plan, keeping Lincoln Elementary open — but many felt they had done as much as they could do at the time. Since then, the East Side has remained about the same, minus a few businesses along East St. Germain Street.
"Not much has happened except the buildings have fallen apart," said Carolyn Garven. Garven is one of five board members hoping to reinvigorate the East Side Boosters and — ultimately — St. Cloud's entire East Side.
The boosters are hosting a visioning session from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at the East Side VFW. Everyone is invited to talk about all things East Side. "We know East St. Germain will be a hot topic," said Joan Jaye, chair of the East Side Boosters. "Beyond that, we really don't know," Garven said. And that's OK. The group wants feedback on issues and new ideas about projects big (such as redevelopment) and small (installing art fixtures or planting milkweed gardens).
"I don't want people to think about economic development exclusively," Jaye said. "I want to know what the neighbors want."
Jaye recently left her role as the executive director of the St. Cloud Neighborhood Coalition. In addition to Jaye and Garven, the East Side Boosters board includes Terry Rothstein, former owner of Continental Press; Kristin Rothstein, owner of Continental Press; and Bob Abel, a developer with property on the East Side.
City officials are also invited to Saturday's visioning session. Steve Laraway, who represents Ward 2 on the City Council, plans to attend. Ward 2 includes a section of the north side along the Mississippi River and the East Side, both the North East-Wilson Park and Southeast neighborhoods.
Laraway has been an advocate for East Side redevelopment during his council tenure. "We need to do something on the East Side or it is going to perish," he said. "We need to make the East Side a destination. We have to give people a reason to head over there. We're working on some of those things, but it's like turning a big ship in the ocean. It takes a while to get it going." Laraway said he is confident about the East Side Boosters being able to kick-start changes on the East Side. "(Jaye) has the ability to rally people," he said. "Anything that you do, you've got to start with the people. You have to have those stakeholders before you get a lot of government involvement."
The East Side Boosters was incorporated in February 1940 and was active until the late 1960s or early 1970s, according to Jaye. It became active again in the early 2000s, when the city's comprehensive plan revealed plans to expand St. Germain Street to four lanes and remove on-street parking. The plan to widen the road was unpopular with business owners, and ultimately, when the road was expanded in 2006, a number of businesses shuttered their doors.
At the same time, Jaye was ending her tenure with St. Cloud Downtown Council and Garven had retired from teaching. Garven then served on the City Council from 2000-2012. "When I joined the council, we were the poor stepsister," Garven said of the East Side. Jaye started working on East Side Booster initiatives, including a partnership promoting healthy communities and installing an inclusive playground at Wilson Park.
By 2008, the boosters felt they had accomplished their goals. Some members were worn out. Some had other projects to focus on. So why bring back the boosters now? "There's opportunity and that's the biggest thing," Jaye said. "Because we have this blank canvas, we want it planned strategically."