Downtown Saint Paul and the surrounding riverfront is the heart of the eastern Twin City. Downtown has evolved into a center of government, finance, and insurance. It is a hub of culture, home to many museums, theaters, concerts, and sporting events. It has also come into its own as residential hub that takes pride in its livability and historic charm.
Recognizing these assets, Smart Growth American rated the downtown opportunity zone as having the tenth-highest "smart growth potential" among the 8,700 Opportunity Zones designated nationwide. Develop Advisors rated it in the top 0.5% for investment among tracts rated nationally.
Over the last twenty years, Saint Paul has undertaken wide-ranging efforts to reorient itself and its city center to the Mississippi River. Not long ago, the Great River Passage Master Plan established vision and momentum for a 17-mile-long system of riverfront parks and trails that tie together Mississippi River neighborhoods.
Just across the river on the West Side Flats, major investments in cultural amenities continue to anchor these communities to their unique history and cultural assets. The many small businesses along the West Side's District del Sol draw energy from the area's longtime Latino residents. Along West Seventh, the newly restored Jacob Schmidt Brewery complex repurposes a historic icon as artist housing and a vital indoor marketplace that opened in 2018.
This is a dynamic and diverse focus area, and the opportunities are similarly wide ranging. Used strategically in coordination with city efforts, Opportunity Zone funding will help our urban core come into its own.
- The downtown portion of this focus area was recognized as having the tenth highest "Smart Growth Potential" among 8,700 opportunity zone tracts nationwide, meaning it was in the top two tenths of one percent of tracts. In its report, Smart Growth America they created the "Smart Growth Potential" filter for investors, "to identify which Opportunity Zones should be prioritized for investment from a triple-bottom-line perspective that can deliver positive economic, environmental, and social returns." Further, Develop Advisors rated it as being the 34th best tract for investment in the country among the 7,823 tracts ranked.
- Downtown itself is anchored by several major companies, and many corporate headquarters, including Ecolab, Securian, and US Bank. Five hospitals – Regions, Gillette Children's, Saint Joesph's, United and Children's of Minnesota – make this a regional health care destination. The Minnesota State Capitol is located on the northern end of downtown, along with many state departments.
- Downtown Saint Paul is a major transportation hub. The area lies at the nexus of three freeways, METRO Green Line light rail and dozens of bus lines, the region's Amtrak station and Greyhound hub, an extensive regional bicycling system, barging and recreational marinas, and is serviced by its own regional airport less than a mile away,.
- The core is a statewide arts, culture and entertainment destination. On downtown’s western edge, the 18,000-seat Xcel Energy Center is known as the region’s most desirable major concert venue and as the home to the Minnesota Wild NHL team. At a quarter million square feet, the RiverCentre Convention Center hosts conventions from far and wide. On downtown’s eastern edge, the new 7,200 seat CHS Field is home to minor league Saints baseball. In between, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Palace Theater, Fitzgerald Theater, Park Square Theater, History Theater, Minnesota Children’s Museum, Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota History Center, Minnesota Museum of American Art, and Saint Paul Farmer’s Market all reliably draw visitors from across the region.
- The market is driving new housing construction downtown, with the Oxbo and Oaks Union Depot development as two of the the most recent additions. And a glitzy new Lund's & Byerly's grocery store at the Penfield Apartments is rounding out the amenities for downtown living.
- Situated south of downtown, Saint Paul's West Side is the historic home of the city's Latino population. The focus area includes Harriet Island Regional Park and Marina – a jumping-off point for outdoor festivals and regional river activities in the heart of a Mississippi River-focused National Park. The District del Sol is the heart of the Latino business and cultural community in Saint Paul, anchored by longtime businesses like El Burrito Mercado. Millions have been invested in Harriet Island & Lilydale Regional Parks, creating a seamless and exceptional riverfront park and trail system. Adjacent to the river, below the bluffline the "West Side Flats" area is home to the city's riverfront esplanade. Early redevelopment projects like the West Side Flats Apartments have proven a new market.
- The West Seventh neighborhood extends southwest from downtown along West Seventh Street. Anchored with a deep sense of history, and home to many longstanding businesses, the Fort Road/West Seventh has seen a steady resurgence in recent decades. A decade ago at Upper Landing, new housing replaced a former junkyard, and new bicycle and walking trails that connect its riverfront to an expansive regional trail system. Within the historic Jacob Schmidt Brewery, the new Schmidt Artist Lofts and associated Keg & Case Market are driving renewed interest in this unique neighborhood.
A profile of the downtown,
West Seventh and West Side
Opportunity Zone areas.