Too often, people pass by the businesses on Snelling Avenue, near University in St. Paul, without stopping.
As one way to change that, the African Economic Development Solutions (
AEDS) group is leading an effort to brand the district that spans Snelling Avenue between University and Minnehaha avenues as “Little Africa.”
Soon, the Central Corridor
light rail transit line will run through the area, but in the meantime, the construction has decreased foot traffic in the district and beyond.
Bruce Corrie, who is a business professor at Concordia University
in Saint Paul, explains that the branding campaign comes out of the broader, nonprofit-driven World Cultural Heritage District.
This emerged as a way to help businesses stay afloat during the light rail construction on University.
The idea is to make the area a destination for ethnic tourism. Here, “there’s a growing presence of African Americans,” he says, adding that it includes about 20 immigrant businesses.
Further, “African immigrant groups are very dynamic and entrepreneurial,” he says. “We want to capture that.”
It follows other similar branding efforts along different segments of University, including “Little Mekong
” (see The Line
) and the African American Cultural Corridor.
The districts would also relate to similar areas in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park. As it is, “There’s not a strong cultural infrastructure in Minnesota,” he says, adding that it’s an opportunity. “We’re trying to tap into the global market.”
While encouraging more people to come to the district, another goal is to “develop the cultural capacity,” he says.
Eventually signage will come to indicate the district visually.
“One challenge is to get the attention of policymakers,” to help bring more resources to the area, he says.
Recently the district rolled out a voucher program, offering $5 coupons to district shoppers. Also, the Snelling Café will host a free book exchange through its new Little Free Library, which it’s celebrating with a July 27 luncheon.
Source: Dr. Bruce Corrie, Professor of Business in the College of Business and Organizational Leadership, Concordia University
Writer: Anna Pratt