West Broadway business owners are among the latest group of people in North Minneapolis who are worried about the Metropolitan Council’s proposed plans to run a light rail line through their neighborhood.
Some of the concerns include parking removal, as well as how traffic and buses would be affected. They’re also worried about changes to buildings to accommodate street widening for the light rail, and concerns about how businesses, many of which are BIPOC-owned, would be affected during and after construction.
“I think the light rail will destroy the commercial corridor, the only commercial corridor that we have in North Minneapolis that has viable potential,” said Dean Rose, who owns the Broadway Liquor Outlet, as well as the building with 103 affordable housing units above it, on the northwest corner of West Broadway and Penn.
The Met Council’s consideration of an extension of the Blue Line light rail down West Broadway on the way to Brooklyn Park is a relatively recent development. The project, which has been in the works for almost a decade, was initially rerouted out of North Minneapolis because of gentrification concerns.
The agency is again proposing bringing the route back into the community because they were unable to convince Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to run the light rail alongside their tracks through Theodore Wirth Park.
These concerns come as Lyn-Park homeowners are worried about how the light rail would affect their property values and their ability to build generational wealth. They persuaded the Met Council to study running the route closer to Washington Avenue.
Business owners like Rose are concerned about how the light rail would affect buildings along the West Broadway corridor. As part of the 2007 West Broadway Alive plan, Rose worked to develop guidelines that require new buildings to build up to the sidewalk, as opposed to having off-street parking in front.
“We have been looking and developing West Broadway,” said Rose. “That [planning] allows for interaction of customers and pedestrians and community members to engage in commerce in a comfortable way that is accessible to bikes, pedestrians, autos and buses,” he adds. “When you make this shift to putting light rail down West Broadway,” he continues, “it flies in the face of all the development principles that we’ve been investing in for decades.”
It also makes it hard for Teto Wilson, who owns the building that houses his business—Wilson’s Image Barbers and Stylists, across the street from Broadway Liquor Outlet—to decide whether or not to buy other buildings along the corridor to rebuild.
“You’re literally taking a building I would have purchased at full price and you’re making it much smaller,” said Wilson, referring to a building he is interested in that the Met Council wants to remove five feet of to allow the light rail to pass through. “[It’s] putting a lot of people that have projects either in the works or in their minds in a holding pattern.”
Parking is also another issue for business owners such as Tara Watson, who owns a chiropractic practice and franchises an Anytime Fitness on West Broadway. “We already struggle with parking on the avenue [at] certain times of the day because of the on-street parking regulations,” says Watson. “It just makes it really, really difficult now for you to reduce it down to one lane on each side with something going through the middle, congesting the area more [and] taking away people’s businesses.”
Business owners like Wilson are also worried that removing parking will make it harder for those with mobility access needs to visit their businesses by Metro Mobility or taxi. “If I have a customer that’s in one of those Metro Mobility vans and they pull up in front of my business, they’re not going to be able to stop, get out, use the ramp, let the customer out, and bring them into the shop,” worries Wilson. “Because you’re gonna create a traffic bottleneck.”
People may have a harder time getting to West Broadway businesses by light rail because the Met Council is proposing up to three stops on West Broadway, which is less than the nine and a half bus stops that exist today. Depending on the alternative, trains may either stop at Illion/James and Aldrich/Bryant or just at Emerson. Both alternatives call for the light rail to also stop at Penn.
“The train is gonna go right past all these other businesses,” said Wilson. “I just don’t see how it’s going to truly benefit the people here. What about us that have businesses here? It’s gonna be more of a negative impact for us versus having people to … not have to drive any longer.”
Some West Broadway business owners believe the Met Council would be better off running a shuttle with San Francisco-like cable cars or building a rapid transit bus route, similar to the C and D lines. “I don’t think you’re going to have anyone complaining about a [line similar to the] C Line compared to a rail line,” said Wilson. Metro Transit does indeed plan to build such a route on West Broadway after 2030, that runs to Robbinsdale Transit Center and 38th Street Station via Washington and Cedar Avenues, replacing Routes 14 and 22.
It’s possible that some of the concerns businesses have may be addressed later this year when the Met Council releases its report required by the federal government on how the project will affect the surrounding neighborhood, and what they plan to do to mitigate those concerns.
Although Metro Transit staff did not respond to repeated email requests to comment on West Broadway corridor businesses’ concerns, they plan to host community meetings to get more feedback this coming month. Their next meeting will be on Monday, April 17, from 5 – 7 p.m., at Sanctuary Covenant Church, 710 W Broadway Ave. They also have a virtual meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 17, from 5 – 6 p.m.