What have we been telling you as long as this blog has existed?
The businesses along University Avenue that the Central Corridor doesn’t starve out of existence now, during the construction phase, it will either price out of existence in the few areas – around the stops in the less-blighted areas – that get gentrified, or starve out the business in between that are beyond easy dead-of-winter walking distance from the stops that can’t also afford to build off-street parking for customers.
But those last two are well in the future. We’re still in phase one, starving out the businesses we already have along Uni:
Ne Dao is worried. Business at her normally bustling grocery store has slowed the past two weeks, and she fears it will only get worse once the massive light-rail transit construction project lands on her doorstep.
Ask the Panellis, from the late, great Caribe Bistro; it doesn’t get any better.
Many of the Asian businesses located along the five-block stretch of University Avenue recently dubbed the Little Mekong business district say they’re losing customers and sales. Business owners blame the road construction that is making way for the Central Corridor light-rail line connecting downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul.
The road work on their stretch started in March and is expected to finish in late October. At University and Western avenues, the owner of Mai Village restaurant says she’s had to lay off the hostess and cut back from 10 servers to five because of the drop in business.
The problem was clearly inherited from George W. Bush.
Seriously? I know the Mai Village. The Mai was started probably close to twenty years ago, one of the wave of businesses started along Uni in Frogtown by Asian immigrants – first the Vietnamese, then the Hmong – who took the blighted stretch of the avenue between Lexington and the Capitol and turned it into, if not “Architectural Digest” fodder, at least a place with people, traffic, commerce, jobs…
Not the kind of life the DFL approves of – it’s not the kind of thing that fits the DFL’s vision of what Saint Paul’s Main Street should be. Caribou. Patagonia, and lots and lots of government offices and non-profits.
Little Asian restaurants, founded by families who risked everything to leave Communist dictatorships to come to America, pooled their resources after years of working at scut-work jobs, leased ratty-looking little holes in the wall in blighted neighborhoods, built them into successes (and eventually nicer buildings, at least for those who kept their businesses on the avenue), and eventual hard-won prosperity?
This year, Mother’s Day, typically her busiest day of the year, was a dead zone.
“I don’t know how long we will survive,” said My Dung Nguyen, who along with her husband, Ngoan Dang, have owned Mai Village on University Avenue for more than 20 years.
The construction – as predicted in this space and in the spaces of everyone who really pays any attention to these things – has led to a long chain of destroyed businesses, wiped-out lifes’ savings, and misery in among all the dislocation for us Midway residents.
The sound of Bobcats and work crews, coupled with the dust they’re kicking up, have left her rose-filled haven of a patio empty because customers don’t want to sit out there in the middle of a construction zone.
“My customers, some of them tell it to me straight. They say, ‘I love your family. I love your food. But I’m sorry, I won’t come back until the light rail is done,’” Nguyen said.
What can I say? If you’re ever down on Uni and are looking for a great Vietnamese meal, give the Mai a try. They – and every business along Uni that isn’t part of a national chain with cash reserves to ride out the construction – will need the help.
Institutional Minnesota – the white, upper-middle-class part of it that was born here and never had to sail across a shark and pirate-infested ocean and learn a second, difficult language and start their lives over in a strange, cold land – is responding as usual; with blithe arrogance disguises as effort:
“Change is hard for many people. We’ve heard this from businesses elsewhere on the corridor and in other areas,” said Laura Baenen, a spokeswoman for the Central Corridor Light Rail Project.
“Change is hard for many people” is the “I’m sorry you were offended by what I said” of the social engineer.
Along with the arrogance, we have the out-of-context diversions:
Baenen noted that more businesses have opened on the entire corridor in the past year than have closed. From March 2011 to March 2012, 64 businesses opened on the corridor — including Washington Avenue, University Avenue, and Cedar and 4th Streets in downtown St. Paul — while 59 closed.
I’ll just bet they have. There’s a lot of cheap space available now!
Now – how many of these “businesses” are non-profits that will bring no meaningful commerce to the Avenue?
I’ll get back to you on that.
And it looks like there’ll be more cheap space, as things are shaping up now:
The Asian restaurants are the ones that have been hardest hit, Thoj said. “Just in Little Mekong area, most of the restaurants are seeing a 25 to 50 percent loss. We have about 12 eating establishments. They all drop in customers during lunch and dinner.”
Back at Mai Village, Nguyen says the vision that the Metropolitan Council has of light-rail bringing prosperity to Little Mekong is still a long way from happening.
In the meantime, she says she and the other longtime owners are just trying to hold on to see that day.
“We put our heart, our time, our everything in here,” she said. “We would like to see it a success if the light-rail is done. But that is a big question.”
Silly eggs. Your hearts, time and everything exist at the pleasure of the DFL’s omelet machine.
These are people who did everything right. They rejected socialism for freedom. They threw everything they had into succeeding – with very little to no government help – in a new, sometimes hostile land. And they succeeded. Indeed, the only mistake most of them made – it’s a statistical fact – was voting DFL.
And there’s noplace else to take a boat to, this time.