After 33 years promoting St. Paul’s once-overlooked connection to the Mississippi River, and a year helping create a new Downtown Alliance, the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation will cease operations July 31.
Funded by area foundations and other state and local sources, the Riverfront Corporation was a catalyst for such projects as the $27 million transformation of Harriet Island.
“The City of St. Paul owes a debt of gratitude to the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation for changing the vision of what is possible in our community and for always challenging us to ensure that every voice is heard,” Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement.
Hoping to continue that work is the nonprofit St. Paul Downtown Alliance, composed of elected officials and business leaders. Its job will be to recruit employers, attract investment and create a positive buzz around downtown. Carter and Chris Hilger, Securian Financial Group chairman and CEO, will co-chair the Downtown Alliance board.
The organization’s budget in its first year will be $460,000, according to a spokeswoman. A number of companies and organizations are contributing funding, including Ecolab, the Wild, HealthPartners, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and the St. Paul Saints. The city of St. Paul is kicking in $15,000.
Darlene Walser, Riverfront Corporation executive director, created and led a yearlong process that resulted in a Downtown Vitality Vision (DVV) and led to the Alliance of a 21st Century downtown. Walser has already left the corporation, and its other full-time employee, the office manager, will be the last to go, said Chris Widdess, who has been contracted as transition manager.
“Darlene’s leadership ensured an inclusive and productive environment in which to explore and brainstorm across sectors and communities. She ultimately helped St. Paul discover a new way of doing business,” said Tanya Bell, a member of the DVV steering committee. “Darlene is a strong leader and passionate advocate for building a better St. Paul. We will miss her vision and commitment.”