There’s promise on the East Side of St. Paul, and people are paying attention.
Work on a vision for its future is grounded in what Ann Mulholland of the St. Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations describes as “powerful data” from Minnesota Compass, a project of Wilder Research. Findings pertain to the portion of the East Side that forms the city’s northeast corner, from Lake Phalen east to the city limits at McKnight Road and between Larpenteur and Minnehaha avenues. There:
- Median household income is $43,600. It’s $51,400 for the city as a whole.
- 50 percent of residents are people in poverty, a figure that’s about 43 percent for all of St. Paul.
- 42 percent of residents under the age of 5 are in poverty, compared with 32 percent for the entire city.
- Virtually all — 99.5 percent — of single-family housing units are valued at $200,000 or less. That price applies to 69 percent of housing units citywide.
Behind the numbers is potential. The area “is young, and that’s an asset,” a former St. Paul deputy mayor, who highlighted the data in a recent presentation to the Rotary Club of St. Paul. “People are building families on the East Side.”
It’s diverse, with residents who speak many languages. That’s “an opportunity that we haven’t fully seized — and can,” Mulholland said. It’s a point of view that positions language skills and cultural literacy as powerful assets rather than deficiencies to be corrected.
The housing stock on the East Side also is among advantages. Homes are generally affordable and livable, said Mulholland.
The list of assets throughout the East Side also includes what Mulholland describes as a string of “pearls of natural infrastructure”: Phalen Park, Battle Creek Park and the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.
Those scrutinizing the numbers include a coalition of area foundations, the East Side Funders Group. Together, the nearly 20 entities — including foundations, city government and others organizations — want to “crack the nut on how do you really build economic inclusion on the East Side,” Mulholland told us.
The need arises, in part, from the sweeping change the East Side has undergone. Here’s how the Pioneer Press’ Nick Woltman described it in a report last year:
“Sixty years ago, hundreds of shift workers crowded the streets and sidewalks each morning on St. Paul’s East Side. Toting metal lunchboxes and Thermoses full of coffee, most headed to one of three places:…