Businesses seek STAR program funds

Project sponsors are lining up this month for their Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) Program interviews. The 69 sponsors who are meeting with the Neighborhood STAR Board are seeing the first major changes to the program.
The 2023 requests total $4,277,063.58, and include several asks from area neighborhoods. Most are for commercial improvements.
Board recommendations go to the mayor and city council for approval by year’s end. The St. Paul Planning Commission also reviews requests for consistency with approved city plans.
The 1993 Minnesota Legislature approved the STAR program, which has neighborhood and cultural components, as well as support for RiverCentre. In June, neighborhood guidelines underwent their first major revisions.
Applicants can only seek grants. The loan program was dropped. Grants requests have to be at least $5,000.
Requests of more than $50,000 must be matched on a minimum 1-1 basis. Eleven of the 69 requests this  year are for more than $50,000. The largest request, for $400,000, is from African Development Center for a citywide small business loan program.
More than 50 of the proposals are for commercial or mixed-use property improvements. Others are residential or institutional requests. 
In 2022, 70 requests totaling $6.194 million were submitted. The 2023 field was originally at 70 requests but one proposal was withdrawn. Most requests won’t be met as the program typically has about $2 million available.
Twenty-four projects are in Ward One, with 13 in Ward Two, three in Ward Three, 10 in Ward Four, one in Ward Five, seven in Ward Six and two in Ward Seven. The rest are citywide, district council or business district focused.
Three submissions involve city-owned buildings. Nonprofits affiliated with a building can make such requests under program guidelines. Mosaic on a Stick, the longtime tenant in the Hamline Park Playground Building, is seeking $50,000 to make repairs to a staircase and retaining wall at 1564 Lafond Ave.
Other area requests include:
• 751 TDC LLC, 766 Englewood Ave., $18,131 for parking lot repair.
• African Economic Development Solutions, $200,000 for interior and exterior business loans for African entrepreneurs.
• Bartholomew and Stella Enterprises LLC, $50,000 to improve commercial and residential spaces at 931/933 University Ave.
• Celtic Junction Arts Center, 836 Prior Ave., seeks $31,120 seeks funding to renovate its stage and make other improvements.
• Cocoon House, 2367 University Ave., seeks $49,000 to make a variety of building improvements.
• CR 89 Inc. seeks $50,000 for kitchen upgrades at 88 Oriental Foods, 291 University Ave.
• Doge Pizza seeks $50,000 to make kitchen and building improvements at its restaurant at 629 Aldine St.
• Five Star Academy, Inc, seeks $200,864.03 for improvements to a building at 651 University Ave.
• Hmong Cultural Center of Minnesota seeks $49,200 to make improvement to its cultural center and museum at 375 University Ave.
• Life Juices, 450 N. Lexington Parkway, seeks $27,000 to convert a former Dairy Queen building into a juice and smoothie bar.
• PAIKKA, 550 Vandalia St., seeks $50,000 to build out its bar and restaurant space.
• Rayz R Cuts seeks $50,000 to improve its barber shop and community space at 593 N. Snelling Ave.
• SC Upholstery seeks $140,094 to improve its commercial building at 641 N. Snelling Ave.
• Star Ocean Food, 121 Pierce Butler Route, $100,000 to mill and overlay the parking lot and make building improvements.
• Stellar Grounds LLC seeks $50,000 for various exterior improvements at 766 Englewood Ave.
• Turf Club LC, 1601 University Ave., seeks $21,350 to make needed exterior improvements.
• Udo’s African Food Store, 1459 University Ave., seeks $90,000 to build out grocery store and restaurant space.
• Unique Early Learning Center 719 N. Dale St., seeks $50,000 for a new playground and fence.
• Union Park District Council seeks $30,000 to install 35 custom bicycle racks through its neighborhoods in District 13.
• Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott St., seeks $49,723 for a bandshell and outdoor stage. 


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