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Everyone loves to ‘mix it up’ in the Creative Enterprise Zone

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) is a well-established hub of industry and creativity, radiating out in all directions from the intersection of Raymond and University avenues.
Home to many creative businesses and nonprofit groups, the CEZ itself became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the fall of 2017, making it possible to receive funding from a broader range of foundations.

Originally formed in 2009 as a task force of the St. Anthony Park Community Council, the CEZ now has its own twelve-member working board.

As part of an ongoing series, they hosted a mixer on Feb. 26 at The Naughty Greek Restaurant (2400 University Ave. W.). The Naughty Greek is a fairly new addition to the restaurant scene that serves up authentic Athenian street food at their two St. Paul locations.

Photo right: CEZ board chair Catherine Reid Day welcomed 100+ attendees to the mixer held at the Naughty Greek Restaurant on February 26th. The topic of discussion was Innovative Development for a Creative Economy. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The mixer addressed questions unique to the CEZ about live/work spaces, the growing trend of maker spaces, the future of space development for creative entrepreneurs, and the opportunities and challenges associated with transit-oriented development.

The event was funded by the Knight Foundation. Jai Winston, St. Paul Program Director for the Knight Foundation, added closing remarks.

According to board chair Catherine Reid Day, “At the heart of everything we do for the CEZ is the belief that creativity and economic development go hand in hand. We very much want to preserve the lively mix of people and enterprises that make up our zone. In the usual scheme of gentrification, this presents real challenges.”

The main mixer event was a panel discussion about these challenges. Panelists were Can Can Wonderland’s Rob Clapp, owner and real estate broker of Summit Group/KW Commercial; First and First CEO Peter Remes, a company that transforms derelict urban warehouses into creative, inspiring, worker spaces; and Renee Spillum, Senior Project Manager with the community development corporation Seward Redesign. CEZ board member Lucas Koska moderated the panel discussion.

Photo right: Dr. Bruce Corrie, newly appointed Director of Planning and Economic development for the City of St. Paul said, “We have every intention of becoming the best city in the country for the creative economy.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Clapp explained, “Can Can Wonderland (755 Prior Ave. N.) is proud to be the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota (called a B Corp). That means that we can place value both on being an economic engine for the arts and on being a profitable company. The American Can Factory was the perfect place to create Can Can Wonderland because it had the space we needed at a price point we could afford.”

“The positive energy of the CEZ,” Peter Remes said, “was a big part of what drew me to want to develop Vandalia Tower at 550 Vandalia St. The 220,000 square foot building was in terrible shape, but so many other things about the decision felt right. Ultimately, it was because of the neighborhood that we decided to put our stake in the ground.”

Renee Spillum works as a senior project manager for Seward Redesign in Minneapolis, is a resident of Hamline-Midway, and a new CEZ board member. Her work is focused on business development, commercial leasing, and new development projects. She is also a licensed commercial real estate agent. “I get to go to my job every day and work on re-connecting neighborhoods. What could be better!” she said.

Reid Day concluded, “The Mixer Series has been great because we’re able to invite all kinds of people into creative spaces in the CEZ for conversation.”

In addition to many creatives and makers living and working in the CEZ, staff of the Department of Planning and Economic Development showed up in full force for this mixer. And why shouldn’t City Hall be interested in what’s happening in the CEZ? According to Reid Day, “this district provides more tax revenue to the state than any other.”

The next mixer will be held in early April, time and place still TBD. Check the website at www.creativeenterprisezoneorg for updates.

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