University Avenue businesses need YOU

As traffic snakes through construction barriers on University Avenue, I look at the chain link fences lining the sidewalks and wonder just how much damage some of my favorite small businesses have already felt. Corner businesses on major cross streets are luckier—the #16 bus still stops at Prior and University and traffic still crosses the street in all directions. Mid-block businesses on the south side of University Avenue (now) and on the north side (later) are cut off by trenches and earth-moving equipment, imprisoned behind chain-link fences.

It’s not always clear how to get to them. Uninformative official signs merely point to cross streets for business access, without indicating in advance which businesses are accessible from which cross street. As University Avenue Business Association President Jack McCann said in a press release, “survival time is short for many businesses.”

Any government aid that might be available is not going to fill the gap left by lost access and lost parking and lost customers. The only good news is that we are the customers, and we can come back. University Avenue may be a mess, but there’s some way to get to every business. They need our support during this difficult time.

Here’s a recent press release from the Met Council Central Corridor PR folks:

Support corridor businesses:  Dine out and catch a show

Dan Simonson (left) and James Thissen of Caffe Biaggio want passers-by to know that they can still dine at the Italian restaurant at 2356 University Ave. W. in St. Paul despite LRT construction on the street in front of them. To reach the restaurant’s parking lot and front door that are behind a chain link fence separating the sidewalk from construction, orange signs on University Avenue that say “Business Access” point people to Raymond Street, the nearest cross street, where guests can enter  the parking lot behind the building and go around to the east side of the building. For more details about how to reach the restaurant during construction, visit: www.caffebiaggio.com

Artistic director Peter Hansen and the 100-plus seat Gremlin Theatre are in the shadow quite literally of LRT construction at 2400 University Ave. W. in St. Paul. But the show must go on. Hansen wants theater-goers planning to attend performances of Anton Chekhov’s play, “Uncle Vanya,” this weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and next weekend on April 22 and April 23 to know that they can park for free in the lot behind US Bank kitty-corner to the theater at Raymond and University avenues and on streets around the building. Hansen said theater-goers frequently visit nearby Caffe Biaggio before and after plays. For more information, visit www.gremlin-theatre.org or call 651-228-7008.

If you’re headed for a specific business and have concerns about access, bus stops or parking, call ahead to ask the best way to get there.

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