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“One of the great aspects of this particular project, with the radio station, is it lends itself well for the youth,” said Jesus Ramirez, a DBCC board member who also tries to channel youthful creative energy through the Arts on the Block program. Many younger guys are excited about the prospect of being DJs, he said, but the station will also be looking for young women to get a chance to express themselves.
The East Side has undergone profound cultural changes between the 1990 and 2010 censuses, going from one of St. Paul’s least diverse neighborhoods to its most diverse.
Whites made up 83 percent of Dayton’s Bluff’s population in 1990, but the number had fallen to 39 percent in that 20-year span. Other racial groups have replaced them: The neighborhood’s Asian population grew from 7 percent to 24 percent; blacks from 4 percent to 16 percent; Latinos from 4 percent to 15 percent. Other East Side neighborhoods follow similar trends.
At the same time, the East Side was feeling the pain from the departure of key businesses such as 3M, Whirlpool and the Hamm’s Brewery; and the loss of that prosperity and stability took a toll in terms of poverty and crime.
But the East Side has been undergoing a cultural and economic renaissance, even as the up-by-the-bootstraps immigrant story from more than a century ago plays out again. There are signs everywhere: The old industrial buildings are finding new life as homes and businesses; the Arlington Community Center opens next month; a $1 million Forever St. Paul Challenge grant is going toward creation of a new food hub.
The new radio station will be one more part of that transformation and also of its nurturing.
“This is an opportunity for us to have a way to come together,” said Deanna Abbott-Foster, the DBCC’s executive director. “How do we begin to relate to ourselves as the most diverse community? How does the most diverse community in St. Paul act on its own behalf? This is one way for us to begin to have those conversations.”
The station in St. Louis Park is not as far along in its planning, but Jeff Sibert, president of Park Public Radio, said getting the construction license was a major hurdle cleared.
“We’re starting small and building from the ground up,” he said, and the station is looking for diverse, local-minded programming much like KFAI provides in Minneapolis. “I think there’s a lot of support for something like this.”
Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson