ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- A handful of small business owners on St. Cloud's East End are taking it upon themselves to improve their neighborhood.

Julie Johnson, Marla Waseka, and Ashley Severson have been meeting regularly to talk about ways to bring life back into that part of town. The East End also has quarterly meetings to involve the greater community. Johnson says they've also hit the pavement and knocked on a lot of neighbors' doors.

I think all of us have talked to just about every property owner on the east end, showing them where there is grant money available to refurbish their buildings, fix windows, clean them up, and plant flowers and trees.  Just put some money into the buildings that you own and help bring this side back to life.  There is a lot of character and culture on this side and we're trying to promote it.

One big event they have planned for later this year is Festi-Fall on Sunday, September 22nd. They plan to close down East St. Germain Street from Riverside Avenue to Lincoln Avenue from noon until 5:00 p.m.

Right now they are looking for art vendors with room for up to 50 artists, they are planning to have up to 12 food trucks with those slots nearly filled. Other activities include Touch a Truck, Touch a Puppy & Kitten with the Tri-County Humane Society, and kids activities provided by Salem Lutheran and St. Augustine's churches. Two marquee events are live music with Kat Blue on the outdoor patio at Iron Street Distillery, and an Antique Car Parade from Salem Lutheran to Copper Kitchen.

The organizers say, since they announced the plans for Festi-Fall they have had a number of people and organizations reach out to them asking to be a part of it.

Waseka says they have a clear vision for the future of the East End.

What we are looking at is a far-out vision that this is a walkable neighborhood with renovated buildings, some newer buildings, and perhaps a pocket park.  It could potentially be a destination, not just for St. Cloud but for other areas of the state.

The three women applied for and received a Score Grant for the East End which will allow them to get new benches and colorful garbage cans for the bus stops.

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They are also looking forward to the free on-street parking returning to East St. Germain Street by mid-June.


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