A booster on the way for East Side business

The facade of the building at 798 Margaret St. will be getting a restoration before the building becomes the East Side Enterprise Center. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Plans have turned into funds for a new community resource hub on the East Side. 

The Dayton’s Bluff Community Council and the Latino Economic Development Center have teamed up to put together what they’re calling “the East Side Enterprise Center.” They plan to move into a classic old building known as the Pabst building at 798 Margaret St. They’ve acquired funds from the city to move forward with buying and rehabbing it.

Deanna Foster, executive director at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, calls the development “a catalytic project for making people think of the East Side as a happening place.” The idea is to combine the forces of several ethnically oriented development groups into one central hub for the area.

John Flory from the LEDC said he’s hoping the place will help jumpstart business in the area.

“The East Side has been neglected in terms of investment,” Flory said.

Tim Herman of the East Side Area Business Association said the center would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. “It’s just another piece of the puzzle that needs to happen.”

The finished space would have offices, meeting rooms and a great hall for mid-sized community meetings, as well as a warehouse space to be used for local food distribution.

STAR funds

City Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization funds were approved on Wednesday, July 10, in the form of a $100,000 grant and a $150,000 loan.

Though additional funding is still needed, these funds are a “green light” for the project, Foster said.

Daniel Bayers, who will be overseeing the project for the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department, said the project just squeaked by for funding, but looks promising.

“It will have a big impact on East Seventh Street,” he said. The building, though on Margaret Street, is just off of East Seventh and visible from the main East Side artery.

As is often the case, Bayers said projects such as this can really use a financial nudge to gain momentum. “The city gets involved initially to show support,” he said. “When they get that support they can go get additional funding.”

Farming, too

Foster, along with the LEDC’s John Flory, are also hoping the place will be a hub for smalltime local farmers. In the back of the building, there’s an attached warehouse, which will be turned into an agricultural focal point of sorts, where growers will be able to store produce in coolers. The LEDC and the community council are working with the Hmong Farmer’s Association to get farmers into the space.

At the moment, many of these growers don’t have anywhere to store their produce, Foster explained. The farmers, many of whom live on the East Side, keep farms outside of the city and drive their produce into town for farmers markets, she said. After the markets, much of the food cannot be kept and goes to waste.

“Distribution is very limited if you don’t have a place to store it with cool storage,” she said.

John Flory said he sees the warehouse space as a way of “really developing a local food system.”

Providing a common place for the farmers to store their fruits and vegetables could be a way to facilitate that, and give small farmers a chance, he said.

“The whole distribution cycle has gotten very large. Small farmers have trouble fitting into a large-scale distribution system.”

In addition to storage, the team is working with a couple of mobile food markets that will be storing their buses there. The buses are essentially miniature grocery stores built into re-purposed school buses.

Branching out

Flory said the enterprise center will be taking on the task of combining the resources and efforts of diverse East Side businesses. The goal is to figure out “how to involve them all to build a community that respects all of its different ethnic dreams,” he said.

Flory is not new to community business. He’s previously worked on bringing businesses to the now bustling Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, and has been with the LEDC for over a decade.

The LEDC has worked with Latino entrepreneurs on the East Side for about eight years, he said, but branching out to other ethnic groups is new for the organization.

“We are collaborating with other organizations to provide services to the ethnic mix that makes up the East Side,” he said.

Flory said the goal is to “develop the entrepreneurs that can attract new investment,” rather than simply developing real estate.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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