Hennepin Ave. stores plan to leave as city eliminates customer parking

It may well be the last Christmas shopping season for some businesses on South Hennepin Avenue if the city of Minneapolis follows through on plans to eliminate parking for customers for all practical purposes. The South Hennepin Reconstruction project would eliminate 92 percent of on-street parking spots that many of the more than 150 businesses in the area rely on, among other business-unfriendly features included on the city website.

Pedestrian facilities that improve safety and comfort for people walking

A two-way protected bikeway between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue to improve safety and access for people biking

Dedicated transit lanes for more efficient and reliable transit service

Two vehicle lanes, with left turn lanes at key intersections, to maintain mobility for people in cars

Parking/loading bays where feasible

Business owners recently told Fox-9 News the reconstruction as currently conceived between West 36th Street and Douglas Avenue leaves them little choice but to consider moving on.

[Cafe Meow owner Jessica] Burge claims she will be forced to move if a plan to do away with all the street parking in front of her business gets approved.

“We won’t be here on Hennepin anymore if the parking goes away. It’s just not a viable space for us,” said Burge. 

If the precious parking spots disappear, Anthony Gulyard of One 21 Barbershop says his business will have to leave the area as well. The family-owned barber shop has been around for more than 20 years. 

“I don’t feel like the city of Minneapolis cares about small businesses. That’s what it feels like to me. If they cared, then they would have taken our businesses into consideration when they were making these plans,” said Gulyard. 

The Uptown Businesses and Citizens Against South Hennepin Reconstruction Proposed Design coalition has posted remarks from other business owners online on the impact of the project’s first phase from West 36th Street to Lake Street, painting a bleak picture for stores and shoppers. They argue the redesign would remake the route into an area to pass through rather than continuing as a commercial corridor.

Magers & Quinn Booksellers: As store vacancies on our street grow in number, and remain year after year, we continue to struggle with the redesign and worry about what the future of Uptown retail business will look like.

Dunn Brothers Coffee: The Hennepin Avenue construction project may be one of the projects for business I have witnessed. There was and is no benefit to this project.

Kitchen Window: Our store foot traffic is down over 30%. The elimination of convenient on-street parking has severely impacted customers’ willingness to stop by and quickly pick up an item or two.

The coalition also points out numerous other issues with the proposed reconstruction, which critics say fails to take into account changes coming our way from the pandemic.

This design doesn’t acknowledge the pandemic has also changed how many retailers work.  Many of them have embraced online channels, resulting in more need for FedEx pickup/dropoff, DoorDash, etc.  This design completely ignores the newly emerging importance of logistics to making small retail work in a world where one has to have as many revenue channels as possible to compete against corporations like Amazon, Target, Wal-mart, etc to survive.  And of course, it doesn’t acknowledge the importance of parking in the customer experience and how customers decide where to shop.

All this in an area still struggling to pick up following the riots and unrest after the death of George Floyd. What’s more, businesses face increased costs, thanks to city assessments to finance a project that threatens their viability. Yet from all indications, the plan appears to be full steam ahead, moving toward City Council final approval early next year.

For one business owner who shared his story on the coalition’s website, however, a previous construction project on Hennepin Avenue turned out to be the nudge he needed.

Sport Resource Group: It drove our business out of Uptown (and Minneapolis) and did the same with several business neighbors of ours. We are now located in business-friendly Edina and couldn’t be happier.