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."

MEETING PLANNED TO DISCUSS THE FUTURE OF ST. CLOUD’S EAST SIDE

 Jim Maurice, WJON Nov. 30, 2018

ST. CLOUD -- If you want your voice to be heard on future development in East St. Cloud, Saturday morning you'll have your chance. The East Side Boosters are hosting a visioning session from 9:00 a.m. until noon at the East Side VFW.

Board Member Joan Jaye says they don't want to dwell on the past, but rather focus on making positive changes for the future. "Right now we believe that the pieces are starting to fall into place, and it's time for implementation.  But, we don't want to implement an old plan without getting input from the southeast side residents, the northeast side residents, business owners and property owners.  We're going in with no agenda."

 
Jaye acknowledges that a lot of the discussion Saturday will probably center around developing East St. Germain Street. City Planning Director Matt Glaesman says developers have been interested in the east side, but they are not ready to make their plans public yet. He says getting feedback from residents will go a long way toward moving those projects forward.

Jaye also notes there are a lot of positives on the east side, like 12 city parks including Wilson and Riverside Parks and Clemens and Munsinger Gardens.

The East Side Boosters were initially incorporated in 1940 and were very active until the early 1970s, they reestablished themselves from about 1998 until the early 2000s, and now want to become more active again.

City grapples with East Side redevelopment woes

Jenny Berg, jberg@stcloudtimes.com Published 8:11 p.m. CT Aug. 14, 2017

How do you solve a development problem like the East Side? 

The East St. Cloud Booster Club drafted a possible redevelopment plan more than a decade ago. A local developer and national company are working to redevelop parts of the East St. Germain Street block between Third Avenue Northeast and Wilson Avenue Northeast. And the city has been working to remove redevelopment barriers to encourage catalyst projects such as a Kwik Trip gas station and Northstar rail extension. 

"There are a number of property owners just waiting for that to happen in that area," said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis of a possible extension of the Northstar line. Kleis joined St. Cloud City Council at a study session Monday. Council members Jeff Goerger and John Libert were absent. Council member Steve Laraway said the city's East Side has "long been neglected" — or at least hasn't reached its potential — and he would like to see that part of the city become a destination. 

The city's East Side has been plagued with redevelopment troubles in recent months — and some might argue it's been for years. A number of businesses shuttered their doors after a 2006 city road project expanded East St. Germain to four lanes and removed on-street parking.

Last August, Coborn's Inc. closed its Holiday Station Store at 405 East St. Germain St. Kwik Trip purchased the property, but this summer a Kwik Trip representative said concerns over utility relocation costs and easement disputes have muddled the company's plans for construction of a new gas station.

Bob Abel, who owns the former Ace Bar building on the east end of the block, said he plans to remodel the building's interior. Abel also owns the properties at 409 and 417 East St. Germain St. He plans to demolish the buildings, but said in July his project is already over budget.

The properties at 413 and 417 East St. Germain Street, which includes the Dutch Maid Bakery building, are owned by Daryl Henning. Abel told the Times in July he attempted to acquire those buildings earlier this year, but a purchase agreement with Henning fell through at the last minute.

"I'd love to see some of those things carried through," Laraway said. 

A plan drafted circa 2005 by the East St. Cloud Booster Club was included in agenda packets as a starting point for discussion. The plan shows redevelopment possibilities, including a hotel along the Mississippi River north of St. Germain Street and a multi-building development with a parking lot between Second Avenue Northeast and Wilson Avenue. 

Kleis said the city has been working with developers to help remove barriers on that block such as burying power lines. On Aug. 21, the City Council plans to vote on a proposal to increase the city's franchise fee with electric utilities by 1 percent to pay for utility work such as removing power lines and a substation near Cooper Avenue. 

East Side redevelopment was listed in the city's comprehensive plan adopted last year. It was not listed as a catalyst site, but as one of eight "character areas." The plan recommended the city encourages artisan workshops and artist residences to move into the district by establishing incentives for redeveloping "make/live" space for artists and organizations. But East Side redevelopment captured only about one page of the document, which is upward of 160 pages. The plan's catalyst sites were mostly near downtown on the west side of the river. 

Kleis said the St. Cloud Downtown Council has discussed recently trying to unite the two sides by including the East Side in the council's plans. "The river flows through our city. It doesn't divide the east and the west," Kleis said. The biggest redevelopment boon, Kleis said, would be a Northstar line extension. "That would be the single greatest catalyst for East Side development," he said. He then encouraged council members to reach out to state representatives in support of the extension. "This is doable, and the Legislature can do that," Kleis said.