West Side Citizens Organization
For over a century, Saint Paul’s West Side has been home to immigrant families that have come to Minnesota to work in meat packing factories and fields. In the 1920’s the West Side saw a wave of new immigrants from Mexico. Stella Hernandez and her family were among the Mexican immigrants that settled on the West Side river flats and created a tight knit community there with extended family and friends.
In the 1960s the community on the river flats was forced to relocate. Unprotected from the frequent flooding of the Mississippi River, no structural enforcements were put into place until after the community was forced to leave. Once the city provided protection from the frequent flooding, industry and businesses moved in.
Stella Hernandez was the last to leave the riverbank fifty years ago. But the citizens of the West Side did not forget. With the hopes of restoring the vibrant community they knew along the flats, the West Side Citizens Organization (WSCO), together with local residents, began many years of advocating for equitable development on the flats.
WSCO is a community-based organization that empowers the people of the West Side to advocate for change in their community. Through advocacy, leadership training and community involvement, WSCO works with citizens on the West Side to promote development that takes all of the needs of the community into account. The community meets, discusses and decides what they would like to see happen on the river flats.
The decimation of the lively community that existed along the flats fifty years ago provided motivation for WSCO to work with residents to protect and revitalize the community. In 2007 WSCO successfully worked with community members to stop the Bridges of St. Paul mega-development from entering the community. Currently, WSCO is working with a developer to build a new area of residential development on the river flats, which is set to break-ground in 2011. West Side residents have come together to create a strong and powerful voice that can stand up for themselves and their neighborhood. Headwaters has partnered with WSCO to keep the community on the river flats alive for generations to come.