During the past few weeks, I've been reading the articles about the "Red Carpet Campaign," St. Paul's retail recruitment strategy for filling storefront vacancies during the Republican National Convention. The city, working with the Chamber of Commerce and the local Building Owners and Managers Association chapter, is offering very short-term leases, in some cases for a couple of weeks, at significantly reduced rates, to encourage businesses to try out a downtown St. Paul location for a spell. The Chamber is administering the program--being a matchmaker between tenants and building owners/managers--which helps to eliminate the competition between owners as well as making it easier on them by delivering tenants to their door.
Arguably, the RNC will be creating an unrealistic volume of customers, but I think it will be interesting to see which of the businesses decide to stick around to see if they can thrive in the capital city. According to Dave Orrick's article in yesterday's Pioneer Press, one such businesswoman, Stacey Finnegan, owner of Il Vostro Boutique, is taking out a 6-month lease. Finnegan says in the article:
"I'm not really looking at the RNC as a litmus test, because it'll be a false negative or positive," she said. "We'd been considering secondary location options, and it was a perfect storm. There's some nice incentives in downtown St. Paul without the commitment for a five- to 10-year lease."I heartily applaud St. Paul for piloting this incredibly innovative and unique approach. As central business districts around the country struggle with attracting and retaining retail, a common strategy is to dish out lots of tax breaks and other higher cost incentives. The Red Carpet campaign relies on partnerships with building owners, it allows smaller businesses and those considering new locations to get their feet wet in St. Paul without a major cash commitment, and it is set up so that building owners, small businesses, and the city are all winners in the end.
image: Twin Cities Daily Photo