St. Paul East Side billboard awaits feel-good message

The rather delicious infighting among St. Paul City Council members over the fate of a typical cruddy billboard reveals this factoid today: East Side residents need inspirational and promotional messages, according to area politicians.

The Pioneer Press‘ Fred Melo the City Council has voted, 4-to-3, to spend $5,000 to “save” the billboard atop the St. Paul Police Department district headquarters at Minnehaha and Payne avenues.

The ward councilman says it’s a community asset.

“It’s been under discussion for a long, long time,” Bostrom told the council. “It’s an opportunity now to put this to good use and recognize all the good things that have been happening on the East Side. … There is no cost to the city on this.”

Bostrom said the final word on the billboard message will rest with the mayor’s office. The cost is estimated at $5,000.

There may be a lot of good things happening on the East Side, but the billboard business isn’t one of them. There hasn’t been a message on the board for years.

Ain’t she a looker?


What could have been done with the space? A commenter on the anti-dilapidated-billboard group on Facebook — Tear Down the Board — suggested something like this.

Al Oertwig, president of the Payne Phalen District 5 Planning Council, endorsed reusing the billboard for neighborhood-focused messages.

And that, as Melo reported, is now up to Mayor Chris Coleman to decide what messages those will be.

There are some great things happening on the East Side.

So in the comments section, let’s give the mayor some help. Feel free to use Photoshop.

  • Kassie

    I like that you say there are great things happening on the East Side, but list none of them, nor link to anything that lists good things. Not very convincing. In fact, I’d bet at least a third of the readers couldn’t identify ANYTHING on the East Side. I wouldn’t of been able to a few years ago.

    • I think the cleanup of the Payne Phalen area is relatively striking, ( I think the expansion of Metro State has been all to the good, I think the area around Arcade is much better off from when I first moved here, I think cleaning up the 3M property and creating a business park offers a real opportunity for the area. And though it’s closer to downtown, I think the health campus area that’s going up on Phalen is terrific and is going to spread eastward and provides a really nice gateway to the area. A lot of the dilapidated homes into the area have been bulldozed, I see retail starting up and, perhaps most important, I see a new generation of neighborhood activists coming online.

      But that doesn’t mean a potential billboard can’t be “this place sucks” if that’s what people think of their neighborhood.

      • Kassie

        I question if the expansion of Metro State is good. Tearing down old houses to build parking ramps isn’t my favorite thing.

        And I do agree that there are good things happening on the East Side. I just thought it was funny that nothing was listed in the original post. The East Side is something like a third of the city of St. Paul and no one seems to know anything about if if they don’t live here. My co-workers ask me where it is and I tell them that we are technically standing in it right now.

    • Gary F

      Flat Earth Brew Pub. Was there a couple of weeks ago and am due for a trip back in few weeks or so.

      • Kassie

        Brew Pub? That’s a stretch. They don’t offer food or full beers. They have small tastes of their beer and growlers. It isn’t even a tap room.

    • Jay T. Berken

      I enjoy going to the Hmong Village in between Phalen Blvd and Johnson Pkwy. It has a open market feel to it Minnesota style (indoors), and the food and produce is really good. It helps give me a peek in how Southeast Asia culture is while not going to Southeast Asia.

    • We just had brunch at Ward 6 over on that area. It was pretty good and I can see the start of a revitalization of that area.

    • I’m pretty excited for the new Mississippi Market that is currently under construction on East 7th and Maple Street across from Swede Hollow Cafe.

  • Gary F

    Better ask John Mannillo and the Scenic Minnesota folks. They hate billboards. And now we want to save them? St Paul has a law that says you can’t repair your billboards, so are they going to break the law?

    • The billboard isn’t commercial anymore.

      • Gary F

        Yep, government gets their own special exception that us private sector folks don’t get. They are special.

        • You are just realizing this now?

  • Quick and dirty…

    • Kassie


      • I used to live in the Victory neighborhood in North Minneapolis.

        It’s actually a nice neighborhood.

        /South Minneapolis now with occasional forays into St. Paul

    • Jack

      getting there…
      What is the point of a billboard? It’s one thing to have them along the highway to break up the monotony of a long legged road trip and another to add them to the already cluttered, visually distracting, cityscape.

  • tboom

    Just don’t put up that hollow sounding “East Side Pride” slogan.

    I have a close family member living in the Payne-Phalen area, I’m extremely impressed with the strides taken in improving Payne Avenue – a hardy “good job and continue the good work” to the City, residents, and business owners.

  • Danette

    There are a lot of good things happening in my neighborhood, things have gotten better in the last couple of years. New restaurants, a lot more people buying and LIVING in the homes, whereas it used to be a lot more rental units in really poor condition or vacant houses. I am one of the residents that is sick of seeing major things like this being ignored to the point of serious disrepair. The area of Ward 6 has had the same city council member since 1996′ but that doesn’t mean he has been really working toward the betterment of the area he represents. This billboard, for example, has been neglected for years & years. We first started complaining about it in 2013. Why did it take Mr Bostrom this long to finally start to DO something about it, and not just TALK about it?? If someone was really paying attention, it wouldn’t have become this much of an issue. Oh, you were asking for ideas for a billboard. Hmmmm, how about “East Side- So Much Better Than What You Have Been Told”. We’ve been a really awesome place to live for awhile, it is just that nobody knows that because of all the negative publicity it gets, along with the Facebook pages that do nothing but complain about & put down our diverse neighborhoods. Come in and talk to people who live here, newer residents of the East Side. We can tell you how great it is!!

    • Jack

      Karin DuPaul has been trying to get rid of billboards for well over a decade. MetroState’s ongoing consumption of properties is not always welcomed by locals and considered an improvement along with the *new* residents with new ideas of what *they* think are improvements.

    • Kassie

      Honestly, I rent a house on the East Side and I am not even considering it for when we buy a house. I’d much rather live in Frogtown, Midway or Minneapolis. Aside from a few restaurants and Lake Phalen, the East Side just doesn’t have much going for it. There aren’t even sidewalks on most of the streets near my house and almost no business have bike racks. Unless you live right off of Payne or Arcade or historic Dayton’s Bluff, you pretty much need to drive eveywhere.

      • Stephanie

        The East Side is a big place, as was stated above. I have sidewalks, a gorgeous park and great neighbors. The East Side has dozens of neighborhoods, many with active, connected neighbors trying to make each little corner of it better.

  • I own a home on the East Side.

    I question keeping this billboard. What’s the point? In a city removing billboards, at an intersection that’s mostly people who live or work there, what’s the purpose? Government paternalism to remind people not to litter? Rah rah? And in what language? That corner could easily encompass 4 different languages.

    Put another way, would the city be all “let’s be inspirational on this old billboard?” in Highland Park? Mac-Groveland? Como? Of course not. That they’re doing it on the East Side is some sort of bullshit.

  • Dan

    The billboard is owned by the Saint Paul Police, so to remove it (as would be appropriate according to city legislation passed in 2002) the police would have to pay $30k. Bostrom, a former police officer now endorsed by the police union, found a way to have a private citizen pay the police $5k. The police profit $5k and avoid paying $30k. The only problem is that it’s still against the law to have the billboard up in city limits.

    But Bostrom cleverly passed a resolution that allows Saint Paul police to avoid following the law. If I put up a billboard in my own yard, the police would make me take it down because of the very same law. I have the highest respect for the men and women in uniform, but this is clearly not right.

    Why do we let the police be the exception to the law? And why do we let Councilman Bostrom enable the police to be an exception from the law? Police exceptionalism is bad for our democracy, bad for our city, and even bad for empowering a quality police force.

    I am grateful for the work that the police do to make our society better. But as part of my appreciation, I hold them to a standard. That standard is the law. And the law states that no billboards are allowed in Saint Paul city limits. The police should be no exception to this, and shame on Councilman Bostrom for thinking otherwise.