A group of business owners expressed serious concerns about the upcoming Highway 7 and Louisiana Avenue Interchange Project set to begin this spring.
The intersection is currently plagued with congestion and safety problems, which the project is expected to address. Pedestrian and bicycle paths could also be improved to accommodate the increase in traffic from the future LRT station along Louisiana Avenue.
Business owners met with city officials and Minnesota Department of Transportation engineers to learn more about the project, proposed detours and the resources available to help businesses through the construction.
"We are literally fighting for our livelihood here," Odds & Ends Furniture Owner Nancy Newcomb said at the meeting Tuesday morning. "As a retailer, almost two years of construction could kill us."
Newcomb wasn't alone. Phil Weber, who owns Park Tavern , said he can’t see any upside to the project.
"Even when it's finished, it doesn't help me," he said. "If anything it makes things worse because this new bridge blocks visibility. People won't even be able to see my business once the interchange is in.”
A team of city officials, engineers, communication staff and tourist experts were on hand to field questions. They each told business owners they can provide resources to help.
"... I heard a lot of talk here today, but most of the ideas will still cost me more money."
"The long-term health and viability of businesses is important to the City of St. Louis Park," Community Development Director Kevin Locke said.
"As a city we are more than willing to look into ways to help businesses with marketing, or possibly with some sort of a loan program. These are all things we want to talk about with you and find the best possible solutions."
MnDOT spokesperson Kent Barnard presented some examples used by other businesses during construction to keep customers coming through the doors: group advertising and specially designed signs.
While several ideas were presented, Newcomb said she wasn't optimistic after the meeting.
"This project has the potential to shut down my business," she said. "It's a real concern and I heard a lot of talk here today, but most of the ideas will still cost me more money. I just don't know if there are a lot of tangible solutions yet.”
The city has vowed to work closely with business owners and set up another meeting in November to discuss more specific concerns.
For a look at detailed plans of the project, check out the MnDOT website.
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