ST. PAUL, Minn. - A group of merchants along the Central Corridor Light Rail construction project have asked that the project be stopped. The University Avenue Betterment Association filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
There is no doubt that the construction and destruction along busy University Avenue has cost businesses along the route, in customers and cash. However, there is money built into the project to help those merchants.
"It is for businesses that have annual sales of less than $2 million. So, because this is taxpayer money, we are trying to focus on the businesses, we think, are the most vulnerable. So, small businesses, sales less than $2 million, they have been 'on the corridor' for at least a year," explained Nancy Homans, Policy Director for the City of St. Paul Mayor's Office.
"It is sort of a 'one-size-fits-all' approach in terms of the dollars that are available for businesses. So, depending on the size of your business, you are only eligible to collect the same amount (as any other business)," said James Segal, owner of Ax-Man Surplus Store and University Avenue Betterment Association Board member.
Segal insists that $20,000 would not cover the revenue loss at his store, located just west of Snelling Avenue. Underlining the loss of pedestrian traffic in the store was a sidewalk replacement project on Tuesday that forced would-be customers to walk in the street to reach the Ax-Man store.
"Certainly, with Black Friday coming up, we prefer to have good access," said Segal.
Segal complains that access, parking and financial mitigation have fallen short of what the Association had hoped for. Still, he calls the lawsuit in federal court "posturing" and an attempt to convince the authorities that their basic business needs are not being met.
The City insists that their concerns are not falling on deaf ears.
"At the end of this year, at the end of December, we (the light rail authorities) have committed ourselves to doing an evaluation of the program as it has been run this year. (To) see who has not qualified and why and if we should change the criteria for any reason," said Homans.
The Central Corridor project, connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul, is about one-third complete. It is scheduled to be finished in 2014.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)