The city of St. Cloud has made it a priority to revitalize the downtown.  St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis joined me on WJON.  He says this process is underway but says this type of thing doesn't happen overnight.  Kleis says every downtown development expert says  downtowns that thrive have a significant housing component.  He says many cities saw office spaces become vacant with the transition of many people working remotely during the pandemic.  Kleis says that has led numerous downtowns to convert that space into housing.  He says housing creates stability with downtowns.

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Kleis says many studies they looked at indicate millennials like living in walkable urban areas.  He says Central Minnesota has less than 1% housing in walkable urban areas.  Kleis explains the state, the federal government or the city won't build the housing.  He says this is a private/public partnership.  Kleis indicates the city can provide the necessary infrastructure and connectivity that can make it easier for developers.  He says since the downtown summit last year they've had 26 new businesses or expanding businesses downtown.

Kleis says the willingness to invest in the downtown is spurring business confidence in future growth.  St. Cloud Community Development Director Matt Glaesman told me the development of surface lots downtown are prime locations for multi-family housing.  He says the city has received lots of interest from both local and regional developers to build housing both downtown and downtown adjacent.  Glaesman indicates downtown housing would likely include retail on the first floor with housing above while downtown adjacent would likely just be 1 or 2 story buildings.  He says the type of housing they are looking for can include all levels of affordability.

Some cities St. Cloud Officials examined as models for where downtown growth has been successful includes both Fargo and Rochester.  Kleis says it took 10 to 15 years for Fargo to go from a downtown that included mostly bars to where it is now with housing, retail and a vibrancy that is attractive to the community.

If you'd like to listen to my conversation with Mayor Kleis it is available below.

 

 

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