There’s been much concern about how small businesses along University Avenue will survive during construction of the Central Corridor light rail line over the next couple of years. The rail construction was even cited as a reason for closing the iconic Porky’s drive-in.
But today the Metropolitan Council announced it has increased the amount of aid to the businesses along the rail route — raising the amount to $11 million, with more than $6 million in forgivable loans and grants.
Those contributing to the assistance include the Metropolitan Council, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and Living Cities philanthropic collaborative.
There are more than 800 businesses along the route; many are concerned that construction work will limit access, and the loss of parking spots on University Avenue will drive away customers.
City officials have long said there is plenty of parking off the avenue, but there has been much talk lately of efforts to help the businesses.
New Met Council Chair Susan Haigh said:
“Even while the project itself is creating many hundreds of jobs and is great news for some businesses, other business owners are struggling due to issues of access and parking.
“We’ve heard their voices. They’re valued members of the community and the funding partners want to lend financial support. And, we want to get the word out that businesses in the Central Corridor are open for business during construction.”
The light rail line will connect the downtowns of St. Paul and Minnesota, with most of the line running along University Avenue. The two mayors said they’re committed to helping the businesses.
“Central Corridor will be an economic engine for Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and vibrant small businesses will be the spark,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. “The cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul join the Metro Council in using every tool in our tool boxes to help small businesses meet the challenges they are facing during construction and become even more prosperous once the line is built.”
“From day one we’ve focused on supporting small businesses along the Central Corridor,” said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. “This additional financial support will help businesses through a difficult construction period so they can, in turn, continue to drive economic growth and provide employment opportunities at the very center of the region.”