St. Paul council votes to continue Downtown Improvement District program

On Wednesday, the St. Paul City Council approved the St. Paul Downtown Alliance’s operation plan for next year’s Downtown Improvement District ambassador program ten months after its inception.

At the beginning of 2021, the downtown alliance started getting their Downtown Improvement District "street teams" out on the streets of St. Paul working to keep the city clean and safe while acting as a resource to people who might need help or have questions.

The "district" consists of about 40 blocks that include the city’s largest commercial and residential buildings as well as entertainment like the Ordway and Xcel Energy Center.

"It’s safety ambassadors, cleaning ambassadors, they’re out in [downtown] space, they’re picking up litter, they’re removing graffiti and they’re also providing additional eyes and ears," President of the St. Paul Downtown Alliance, Joe Spencer, said.

Spencer says all of their downtown ambassadors have a radio that connects them with the program’s joint communications center.

"They all have a radio to connect to the safety information center which, again, connects to the police and private security," Spencer said.

In a presentation to St. Paul’s City Council Spencer said this summer Downtown Improvement District ambassadors: Picked up 906 bags of trash, cleaned up more than 1,000 graffiti tags, provided safety escorts for 235 people, and referred 172 people to social services.

"This program is really important because we know that, especially, now people need to feel safe when they come downtown. They need to hear the word that it’s safe to come out," Spencer said. "When you’re ready to come back to work, from a COVID perspective, when you’re ready to come back to the theaters, we’re excited for you to know that downtown is ready for you."

The ambassador team will be out on the streets from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Next year, they’ll be operating with a $1.9 million budget. About 16% of that budget is funded by the city and county.

St. Paul provides a voluntary contribution of $166,000 and Ramsey County provides a voluntary contribution of $144,000. The program is funded mostly by business and real estate owners in downtown St. Paul.