Construction causes financial loss

Lowertown is offering local businesses up to $10,000 in temporary loans.

by Andre Eggert

St. Paul streets are torn up, utility lines are being relocated and men in hardhats outnumber pedestrians.
Construction on the Central Corridor Light- Rail line began in St. PaulâÄôs Lowertown neighborhood last year, and businesses are feeling the impact.
Now, the city of St. Paul wants to help by offering each Lowertown business up to $10,000 in temporary loans. It has a total of $60,000 to give.
The neighborhood is getting its portion of the total $1.5 million in relief for businesses sooner than the rest. The money is being offered by the Metropolitan Council and the Central Corridor Funders Collaboration, a group of local and national contributors, for all the businesses impacted by Central Corridor construction.
âÄúLowertown businesses needed help and we responded,âÄù St. Paul City Councilman Dave Thune  said in a statement. âÄúOwners needed access to this money before other businesses along University [Avenue] so we worked together and came up with a creative solution.âÄù
Not all the money is available because the Met Council has yet to finish signing an agreement for federal funding, Ellen Muller, St. PaulâÄôs economic development manager, said.
âÄúThat means weâÄôd all be waiting around until that got signed,âÄù she said.
The agreement wonâÄôt be finalized until December, Muller said. At that point, businesses in Minneapolis will be able to apply for loans when construction nears.
Help is coming to local businesses because their âÄúunique characterâÄù must be protected, Met Council Chairman Peter Bell said.
âÄúThis small business loan program offers a safety net for those owners who did everything they could and are still threatened by a construction-related financial loss,âÄù Bell said.
In addition to the money, businesses can receive a variety of inexpensive or free services such as bookkeeping, marketing and merchandising.
Several food and retail businesses have expressed interest in the loan program and one completed an application.
The first loan is expected to be finalized sometime next week. Muller said itâÄôs too early to reveal who itâÄôs going to. But once the first loan is finished, the process will go much faster. After a businessâÄô documents are received, the loan can be finalized in less than a week.
Muller said she realizes itâÄôs not much money, but hopes it can be leveraged to benefit businesses suffering construction woes.
The loan is âÄúnot the only tool, but itâÄôs a leveraging tool,âÄù she said. âÄúThe impact comes with leverage.âÄù
Once construction of the Central Corridor is complete, businesses should see more foot and vehicle traffic, Muller said.
âÄúWeâÄôre going to have a new sense of vibrancy,âÄù she said, âÄúwith an increased number of people being able to access Lowertown.âÄù