Where have all the businesses gone?

Small business owners feel the pinch of light-rail construction.

Candice Wheeler

The decision to build the Central Corridor light-rail line might end up changing more than how students get around the Twin Cities. Many of the businesses along the light railâÄôs planned 11-mile route are concerned about the effects this construction will have on their bottom line.

Most business owners are staying positively focused on the result of the three-year plan. At the same time, however, some are concerned with the short-term issues that have arisen due to construction.

The owner of Ax-Man Surplus, Jim Segal, has been vocal in response to an assessment presented at a recent hearing about the light-rail project.

“Did Charlie Sheen help with that report?” Segal responded to the assessment, which estimated a 2.5 percent impact on business revenue at the most. This was laughable to the business owners in attendance, and Segal estimated a $100,000 loss in revenue for the first six months of construction alone.

Businesses farther down University Avenue toward St. Paul are struggling with a major loss in parking. The light rail will eliminate close to 1,000 parking spots along University Avenue âÄî which is 85 percent of all on-street parking.

Dunn Bros Coffee on University Avenue in St. Paul has had the front of its business completely fenced off during construction, but manager Caty Rentmeester remains hopeful that her business will continue to strive over the next few years. “If we want to be a contender in the big city scene, we need to have our public transportation up to par as well,” Rentmeester said in support of the light rail.

Hot spot Punch Pizza has had a front row seat during the construction as well, but it hasnâÄôt been problematic so far. Most regulars, including myself, would jump over barricades to get there, no question. Managers Dan Anderson and Jenny Nyquist believe the completion of the light rail will be a positive thing for their business. Nyquist intelligibly vocalized the journey of this project as a “temporary pain for eventual gain.”