Businesses turn up heat on city in last ditch effort to save parking on Hennepin Ave.

It’s coming down to the wire for small businesses to change the minds of Minneapolis planners bent on eliminating 92 percent of parking spots in favor of bikes and busses in the final plan for the next phase of the reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue South soon to get underway. A recent column with the headline “True progress on Hennepin requires a business plan” in the Southwest Connector neighborhood paper laid it on the line.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of any community. They provide distinctive character to a neighborhood and are the engine that drives a local economy. Without local businesses, there is no local economy. And without a local economy, there is no community.

Is this the future of Minneapolis? That’s the road the city will be on if the Hennepin Avenue South reconstruction project moves forward with its current design.

The Uptown Association’s pleas for a more balanced approach to the busy corridor’s makeover has been strongly supported by small businesses, but utterly bypassed by city staff determined to transform the once vibrant shopping area into a carbon-free zone.

Supporters of the plan have not just dismissed the concerns of business owners. They have openly mocked them at times. While advocates call the plan an “inclusive design,” it doesn’t acknowledge that this plan won’t work for businesses, the elderly, disabled, suburbanites, out-of-towners or families with small kids. Moms and dads don’t always have time to load up the bike cart or take a leisurely stroll.

Minneapolis prides itself on being a bicycle-friendly city, but we’re a long way from becoming Amsterdam or Copenhagen, where half of commuters cycle. The reality is that only about 5 percent of residents in Minneapolis use bikes to get around. That’s around 22,000 people (of the 435,000 population), and that number is even smaller in the winter.

The business community already knows where this leads, given the fallout from the first phase of reconstruction just down Hennepin Avenue South. A separate article in the paper highlights the vacant storefronts lining the street post-construction.

“The new plan is aggressively indifferent to the needs of businesses,” said Amazing Thailand (3024 Hennepin Ave.) general manager Korawan Muangmode. “We’ve already seen dozens of businesses leave our block, and the new plan will continue to drive away business from Uptown and Minneapolis.”

She pointed to the loss of Dogwood Coffee Bar, Francesca’s, North Face, Columbia, Apple, Timberland and Victoria’s Secret on the block of Hennepin between W. Lake St. and W. 31st St. Their section of Hennepin Ave. was part of the first phase of the reconstruction project between Lake and 36th streets that was completed in November 2018. The $7.5 million construction project included widening the sidewalks by about six feet, and installing bike lanes on each side of the street. On-street parking between Lake and 31st and the west side of Hennepin between 31st and 36th was eliminated.

From all indications, the city appears determined to stay the course on a plan that established businesses say likely dooms their ability to make a living in their current locations.

“The first phase from 36th to Lake is a complete disaster,” agreed Uptown Association Executive Director Jill Osiecki. The business association has collected 1,500 signatures on a petition against the proposed extension of the changes to Hennepin Ave. north of Lagoon.

“It will decimate Uptown,” stated Osiecki. “It will take away every single parking space on Hennepin from 31st to Franklin.

But they say no one’s listening to their concerns or suggestions at City Hall, where it’s full speed ahead on a road map that leaves businesses, the lifeblood of Uptown, literally kicked to the curb.