Green Line construction didn't scare businesses from Central Corridor -- quite the opposite
The Episcopal Homes development on the former Porky's Drive-In site is one of many new construction projects along the Green Line.
Photos via Laura Baenen
One of the arguments rail haters made when LRT line being seriously discussed for University Avenue was that construction itself would kill local businesses.
With University ripped up for years, parking would be hard to find, and customers would forsake the Central Corridor in favor of more accessible places, the theory went. But numbers provided to us by the Metropolitan Council indicate that's not at all how it played out in reality.
Anti-LRT protest on Green Line's opening day was a bust
According to those numbers, from February 2011 to December 2013 -- in other words, the period during which the Green Line was being built (heavy construction ended in late 2012) -- 90 businesses closed on the corridor. But that pales in comparison to the 128 that opened.
Furthermore, while 27 businesses moved out of the corridor, 25 moved within it.
In sum, LRT construction didn't destroy the Central Corridor's business community -- quite the opposite. And with the Green Line barely up and running, Metro Transit says its already attracted $2.5 billion work of new construction and redevelopment in the area. (Metro Transit's claim is arguable -- read this Twin Cities Business report for more on that.)
What the Episcopal Homes site looked like pre-Green Line.
Asked to explain the numbers, Laura Baenen, communications manager for the Met Council, cites the nearly $16 million in various forms of business assistance the Met Council and its partners provided to businesses to help them survive during the construction period.
(For more, click to page two.)
Baenen says the Met Council noticed an uptick in business activity along the corridor as soon as heavy construction was through.
"Last year, the work was quiet and consisted mainly of crews pulling miles of underground cable and stringing overhead wires," she wrote in an email. "We heard businesses say last year that sales were up and customers were returning and new ones were seeking them out as a result of the Met Council's $1.2 million marketing campaign conducted by MOD & Co." (Read about that campaign here.)
With regard to parking, Baenen says that while Green Line construction resulted in 85 percent of University Avenue's street parking being removed, a study completely before construction began indicated nearby side streets had more than enough spaces to meet demand. That proved to be the case.
The figures don't account for the types businesses that opened and closed along the corridor, of course, and the possibility LRT contributes to the gentrification-caused death of small local businesses is a whole separate concern. But in any event, the Met Council numbers indicate that when it comes to balancing short-term pain and long-term gain, sometimes the pain isn't nearly as bad as the loudest voices in the debate would have you believe.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.