Central Corridor businesses urged to ask for assistance

Hmong businesses
Many credit Hmong-owned businesses for reviving the eastern stretch of University Avenue. Some store owners are worried about losing off-street parking and inconveniencing their customers.
MPR Photo/Laura Yuen

State officials are urging business owners along St. Paul's University Avenue to contact them for information and assistance.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010 on an 11-mile light rail line between St Paul and Minneapolis, with trains running by 2014.

Many business owners have expressed concern that the construction will hurt their bottom line.

At a forum Wednesday Night in St Paul, Met Council spokeswoman Laura Baenen said mitigation assistance is available.

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Nou Thor
Nou Thor, who owns a medical clinic on University Avenue, points to her block on a map while she talks last year to Metropolitan Council traffic engineer Dan Soler about her parking situation . Thor says there isn't enough space in her parking lot to share with other businesses. Met Council has been meeting with business owners to come up with parking solutions in preparation for a proposed light-rail train line along University. As many as 985 of the available 1,150 spaces on the avenue could be eliminated.
MPR Photo/Laura Yuen

"Legally we can't just give from the project budget money to businesses but there are other groups that are working on that," Baenen said. "I think in the end that's the important news that it's going to happen, the mitigation work is going to happen."

Va-Megn Thoj, head of the Asian Economic Development Association, said the group is hopeful that city and state officials can help business owners get through construction.

"The state of the economy and the budget of the state of Minnesota definitely is a concern when it comes to business mitigation on the Central Corridor, but we feel that where there is a will there is a way," Thoj said.

A coalition of foundations is working on ways to help businesses survive the construction. The council is also helping with signage and other issues.

A second meeting on University Avenue businesses' concerns took place Thursday morning.