The East Side Neighborhood Development Company is building an economically and culturally diverse community on St. Paul's East Side.

Founded in 1979, the East Side Neighborhood Development Company (ESNDC) engages with families, homeowners, businesses, and community partners to create wealth and well-being in a thriving and engaged multicultural neighborhood in the Payne-Phalen area on St. Paul’s East Side.

The Payne-Phalen neighborhood, located just north of the state capitol, has a rich history in St. Paul. It became the home to many newcomers to Minnesota—including Swedish, Irish, German, and Italian immigrants—who lived, worked, opened small businesses, and raised their families in the neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood continues to draw diverse groups—including African, African American, Asian American, European American, Latino, and Native American residents—and is one of the most culturally diverse areas in Minnesota.

Many East Side residents face significant challenges—including financial, language, and education—and are bearing the brunt of the recent economic downturn and mortgage foreclosure crisis. But challenging times on the East Side began decades ago.

Beginning in the 1970s, businesses that employed area residents began closing, including Whirlpool, and Hamm’s Brewery, and 3M. For many people, the ability to earn a living wage and buy a home disappeared. Aging housing stock fell into disrepair, families moved away and sold their houses to absentee landlords, small businesses closed, and crime rates rose. Residents and business owners who were committed to the neighborhood founded ESNDC to address disinvestment in the area.

The nonprofit’s housing development department focused on the need for affordable housing by building and managing apartment buildings, condominiums, townhouses, and single-family homes and rehabilitating houses for current homeowners. ESNDC engages community residents to take action on housing-related issues, including replacing lead-based windows, improving curb appeal, and gathering with their neighbors to map out their vision for their neighborhood.

ESNDC expanded its work to include commercial development on Payne Avenue and Arcade Street, providing loans and grants to local business owners and offering technical assistance to support new immigrant entrepreneurs. Through a business investment fund that stimulates private investment, ESNDC helps business owners expand, renovate, and improve facades so that they can thrive in the neighborhood.

For 30 years, ESNDC has been a beacon on the East Side of St. Paul, a catalyst for community engagement, and the go-to organization for community development. The sudden drastic decrease in foundation grants due to the economic downturn at a time when needs are growing on the East Side means that ESNDC must find new funding streams in order to accomplish its mission.

Gifts from individual donors will benefit ESNDC’s three areas of work: housing development, commercial development and community engagement. ESNDC’s approach to community development has always been rooted in the community, and reaching out to the local and wider community of friends and donors allows ESNDC to deepen and strengthen those roots for the betterment of the community.

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