The St. Paul Downtown Alliance is deploying a team of “ambassadors” and funding events and public art to liven up the center of the city this summer.

The privately funded $150,000 Stewardship Program will focus on improving two downtown zones encompassing the Central light rail station, Rice Park, Landmark Plaza and Hamm Plaza. In addition to paying four or five staff to pick up trash, give directions and work with local businesses, money will also be available for staging community events and creating art projects in those spots.

“The continued growth and vitality of downtown is critical to the health of our entire city,” said Chris Hilger, president and CEO of Securian Financial and Downtown Alliance co-chairman, in a statement.

St. Paul launched the nonprofit Downtown Alliance, an organization comparable to Minneapolis’ Downtown Council, in February 2018 to attract employers and investments to the capital city.

The alliance will award between $500 and $10,000 “for projects ranging from beautification efforts to performances to youth activities,” according to a news release. Applications are due April 15, and projects must take place between June and August.

Donations from individuals and the Knight Foundation will fund the Stewardship Program, which is part of the Downtown Alliance’s research into creating a downtown business improvement district — a designation that would fund improvements downtown through special assessments and service charges to property owners. Block by Block, a national organization that operates business improvement districts across the country — including in Minneapolis and Duluth — will work with St. Paul on the program.

“Major cities across the country use business improvement districts to ensure these traits in their downtowns,” Downtown Alliance President Joe Spencer said in a statement. “The Stewardship Program will help us test this concept in two key zones in St. Paul.”