Como construction takes toll on business

Como businesses are getting restless after a third year of road renovation.

by Vadim Lavrusik

It’s still not finished.

The project to repave the stretch of Como Avenue from 22nd Avenue to 33rd Avenue began in the summer of 2004 and was expected to be finished this July. But detours still currently run from 18th Avenue to 29th Avenue.

In its third year of construction and detours, the project is beginning to take a toll on the business and home owners in the area.

Kelli Fifield, owner of the Tea Leaf Gallery on Como Avenue and 26th Avenue, decided to move her gallery last winter because of the drop in business after traffic was rerouted.

“The detours did not connect with the street efficiently to allow any traffic, foot or otherwise,” she said. “There were no sidewalks; it was just awful.”

After almost going out of business, Fifield relocated to East Hennepin Avenue.

The only people who came to her business, she said, were those “foolish enough” to attempt to drive through the torn-up street, and often they would get their vehicles stuck.

Fifield said she tried calling the city many times and would always get the same response: “It looks like we’re a little bit behind.”

“It seems like other areas that have larger businesses, they wouldn’t think of doing that, interrupting them for three solid years,” she said.

“However, these small neighborhoods and businesses that evidently they aren’t aware of, you know we’re not that important to them and we can just go out of business.”

Fifield moved from a 1,300-square foot room to a 300-square foot room at her new location. Nonetheless, she remains optimistic.

“I am just trying to get by and convince people I am still in business,” she said.

Larry Manning, owner of Manning’s Café at Como and 22nd avenues, said although his business is hurting from the construction, he’s not going anywhere.

“We’ve been here 74 years and this is where we’re gonna stay,” he said.

Manning said his business has decreased by 15 percent to 20 percent.

“We’re not the only people that (get) hurt by detours and construction each year; it’s our turn this year,” he said.

Manning said his business was hurt much worse last year, when his café was virtually inaccessible, but still is looking forward to the completion of the construction.

“They should have had more manpower on the job,” he said. “If it was going full tilt right from the beginning we wouldn’t be facing these delays.”

Construction on Como Avenue has hit further roadblocks.

James De Sota, the neighborhood coordinator for Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the construction is not scheduled to be finished until December and might take longer.

De Sota said one of the delays occurred because the city did not inform the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway company of a fiber optic cable in the ground.

The company, which is replacing the railroad bridge between 22nd and 23rd avenues, faced a three-month construction delay, he said.

Another delay occurred because the company waited for steel for three months, he said.

“It has been really frustrating for residents and businesses as well,” he said. “And nobody seems to take accountability for the delays.”

Project engineer Jenifer Loritz did not return calls for comment.

De Sota said once the bridge is finished, the city plans to reconstruct Como Avenue from 22nd Avenue to the city limits.

Amanda Rohrer, public policy graduate student and resident of the Southeast Como neighborhood, said it is frustrating to give people directions to her home, because she always has to work around the detour.

“It can be quite confusing sometimes for people trying to get to this area, not only that but it adds a few minutes to the drive,” she said. “It’s not too bad though, you just have to work around it.”

More information and updates on the construction are available on the city’s Web site at