UPDATED 1/27/10 AT 10 PM
Members of University Avenue Business Association (UABA), meeting last week to problem-solve around parking issues raised by the Central Corridor Light Rail Line, discussed ideas ranging from having a shuttle to creating a bump in private land for parking to buying vacant lots that several businesses could share.
UABA estimates that 85 percent of the parking along University Avenue will be gone when the light rail comes. In addition to gathering anecdotal information, UABA is asking its members to fill out a survey about their parking needs in order to provide accurate, quantified results in their bid to the city for help.
Jeff Lundeen, who owns a Subway Franchise on University and Vandalia, said that his business was going to go down substantially. He said that he is looking to save 7-8 parking spots.
You can read * the Parking Solutions Team Report by the city of St. Paul and Met Council here and UABA’s position statement here. In their position statement, UABA asserts its role would to engage and support partnerships to work on three phases. The first phase would consist of developing and implementing parking solutions to survive construction, and allocaing funds for off-street parking solutions. Phase Two would entail an implementation of an origin/designation study, and a monitoring of traffic flow before, during and after construction of the light rail. In Phase Three, UABA would support a re-evaluation of street programming in the future.
“I’ve been bringing this up for a long time,” Lundeen said. “I’ve been told there’s not enough money.” Lundeen opened his franchise in 2004, and said he believed the bump parking would be a viable option.
Craig Blakely, a planner from the city of Minneapolis said the bump in option would not be feasible. “You’d have to do it across several owners, Blakely said. “There would have to be room to get in.” The best bang for a business owner’s buck, according to Blakely, would be off street parking that could be shared along property lines.
Tina Lehmann, owner of Metro Dentalcare and treasurer for UABA, said she talked to American Bank Group, and was told that they are not interested in sharing their parking. “It’s nice if you can design this on a piece of paper,” Lehmann said, “but it’s not really going to happen.”
Jack McCann, president of UABA and owner of Midtown Commons , said that UABA is currently looking into vacant lots and businesses that are up for sale. “We have to think creatively,” he said. One solution would be to raze buildings to create more parking. He said he was looking at businesses that are going to have no choice but to leave.
“What is your drop date?” he asked. “There’s businesses that are going to have to come down. Do you want to take a lower bottom line?” McCann said that it was important to figure out the businesses that were going to leave so that “we can tear them down, and build parking lots.”
Ahvo Taipale, who owns Finn-Sisu, which sells cross country skis and saunas, said that he has made the decision to move because of the parking issue. “I bought property outside the city limits,” he said. “I took a big risk.” He said to Jeff Lundeen: “you are dead if you stay there.” He said that he loves St. Paul, and has lived here most of his life. “It’s been good to me,” he said. “But now they lack a total consideration for small businesses.” He’s moving his business, which employs 10 people, to Lauderdale and will open the new location on May 1.
Businesses that have extra parking may find themselves with a huge advantage. Spruce Tree Center, for example, has 1400 square feet of available parking space.
*CORRECTION: The sidebar on the right originally attributed a link to the Parking Solutions Team Report 2009 by the City of St. Paul and the Met Council to UABA. It is now properly attributed.