Commercial Vitality Zone Program

The Commercial Vitality Zone (CVZ) program invests in neighborhood commercial districts to promote city-wide vitality, growth, and equity. It is funded by a $750,000 annual sales tax revenue fund, from a half-cent local sales tax to further residential, cultural, commercial, and economic development.

imageInvestment Strategy

Each year since the program began in 2015, one or more commercial zones are selected for funding.  Criteria for selection of the zone and associated project(s) include:

  • Catalytic:  Projects that leverage other private and public investments and the opportunity to build off existing plans that have neighborhood support, and engage capable partners.
  • Promote Equity: Targeted toward Areas of Concentrated Poverty where 50% or more of residents are people of color (ACP and ACP50), as defined by the Metropolitan Council.
  • Increase Vitality: Projects will strengthen commercial areas and make them more vibrant.
  • Growth:  Projects will grow the tax base.

Definition of a Commercial Zone

A commercial zone is a geographic area that contains a concentration and variety of commercial uses that draw people together seeking goods, services and/or entertainment. It is an area that attracts and fosters social interaction with a mixture of uses, amenities and social activities that contributes to the vitality of the area. It is a place where many gather - to live, work, go to school, worship or visit, and can easily be accessed by walking, biking, taking a bus or train.

Often, there are landmarks or identities to these areas, anchored by an historic building, community gathering spaces and places. It is a place that shows signs of private investment or market potential and is a place where people want to be.

The actual size of a commercial zone varies in size and scale. It can be as simple as an intersection in a neighborhood that attracts activity and interaction that includes a mix of uses. They are typically part of a larger network - linking other zones in the urban fabric.

Funding Plan and Uses of Funds

In addition to meeting the criteria above, CVZ funds can only be used for capital improvement projects such as:

  • Rehab and/or construction of residential, commercial, or industrial property
  • Permanent interior or exterior improvements to commercial or residential facilities
  • Minor public realm improvements (e.g. street furniture, public art, lighting)
  • A non-profit run program for local property owners to make capital improvements (e.g. a façade improvement program)
  • Some direct project costs or soft costs
  • Beautification of public or private open space

Each year, a pipeline of projects and commercial zones are established.  A staff team assesses this pipeline and makes recommendations to the Mayor and City Council.

Past and Current CVZ Projects

2018

The focus areas for 2018 CVZ projects will be determined by City Council and the Mayor as part of the 2018 budget process. More information about these projects will be posted here as it becomes available. 

2017

All 2017 projects are currently in the planning and community engagement phases in order to identify the best use of CVZ funds.

Project Name CVZ Funds Additional Information
District del Sol $312,500 Project is currently in the planning and community engagement phases to identify the best uses of CVZ funds.
Central Selby - Lexington Parkway to Dale Street $312,500 Project is currently in the planning and community engagement phases to identify the best uses of CVZ funds.
Rice Street and Larpenteur (Pre-Development Planning) $50,000 The City of Saint Paul is partnering with the cities of Roseville and Maplewood to create a shared vision for the Rice/Larpenteur area and study redevelopment and reinvestment opportunities. Work with a consultant team began in early 2017 and will be completed in early 2018. 

2016

Project Name CVZ Funds Additional Information
East 7th Street and Arcade $350,000 Project is currently in the planning and community engagement phases to identify the best uses of CVZ funds. 
Como-Front-Dale Intersection $350,000

One component of this project will be to improve pedestrian and bicycle facilities at this intersection in order to increase the safety of people accessing businesses at this commercial node by walking, biking or in cars, in addition to improving its appearance. 

Another component of this project will be to improve the parking lot in front of four businesses at the intersection to improve its appearance and increase safety for people walking on adjacent sidewalks.

Other improvements to facades and parking lots of businesses at this intersection may also be considered. 

Rice Street - University Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue (Pre-Development Planning) $50,000 The City contracted with the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board CAAPB in summer 2017 for a predevelopment planning process to include strategic planning and prioritizing potential capital investments in the corridor.

2015

Project Name CVZ Funds Additional Information
Payne Avenue from E 7th St to Minnehaha Ave $337,500

One component of this project is to build a small overlook of Swede Hollow Park across from neighborhood anchor businesses Morelli’s and Yarusso’s. This overlook is expected to provide benefits to adjacent commercial businesses; highlight a cherished natural area; and serve as a landmark and place-maker in the neighborhood that calls itself “Railroad Island.”  The city’s Parks and Recreation’s Design and Construction team is finishing up the design of the project in preparation for construction in fall of 2017.

Additional community outreach will be done in 2018 to determine a project or projects to use the remaining funds.

Phalen Village $337,500

This project contributes to completion of a redevelopment the City of Saint Paul has fostered for the past 20 years. This funding will help to create a new physical and social center for the Phalen Village community, in the area of 1365-1371 Phalen Boulevard and 1150-1186 Prosperity Avenue, through coordinated public infrastructure improvements that catalyze private investment.

The project consists of three phases that will: 1) re-establish the street grid, and construct a “woonerf” (a fully-functioning street that gives preference to non-motorized-vehicle modes) that will run east-west through the site on Rose Avenue between Cub Foods and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; 2) relocate utilities; and 3) add a new commercial/retail/office building and affordable townhomes and apartments. 

North Snelling Avnue $75,000

CVZ funds helped to off-set assessments to property owners for installation of lantern-style lighting, This lighting was installed as part of a 2015 reconstruction of Snelling Avenue from Dayton Ave to Pierce Butler Route by MnDOT. Simultaneously, Metro Transit built out infrastructure for the A-Line Arterial Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line that began operation in June 2016.  The City of Saint Paul contributed local funds to further enhance the pedestrian environment as part of the reconstruction project.

The assessment buy-down also received $75,000 in Year-Round STAR funds, which resulted in an approximate reduction in the assessment charged to property owners by 15%.