Business hits a roadblock

Light-rail construction is keeping customers off University Avenue.

Editorial board

A new Culver’s had its grand opening Monday in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul despite the impact local construction is having on small businesses. Planners of the light-rail development have scheduled the elimination of 970 parking spots along University Avenue, which amounts to 85 percent of all on-street parking.

Many of the businesses along University Avenue are hair salons, grocery stores and restaurants that bring in high-turnover vehicle traffic. Although the light rail will eventually enrich transportation in the city, it’s going to be a long haul for the businesses that depend on customer parking. According to a staff report by the Parking Solutions Team of the Central Corridor Project Office and the city of St. Paul, parking along University Avenue has been unevenly distributed. Many buildings do not have any parking, while some have more than necessary. Customers generally avoid businesses near light-rail construction sites because they don’t want to deal with parking around the cluttered avenue. Although construction has been cleaned up for the most part, people still have the perception that there are problems in the area, which is what hurts businesses the most.

The Metropolitan Council put $1.2 million toward a marketing company that promotes businesses struggling along University Avenue. Along with advertising these businesses on billboards, the Met Council should also remind customers that construction is improving and that they don’t need to avoid the area. The 11-mile Central Corridor will connect downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul and is set to be completed in 2014.