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Future of Hennepin Avenue through south Minneapolis remains undecided

Council members are pushing for full-time bus lanes, but Mayor Frey vetoed a proposal over concerns about businesses losing parking.

MINNEAPOLIS — The future of Hennepin Avenue through south Minneapolis remains undecided heading into the summer, following Mayor Jacob Frey's veto of a redesign plan that would have added around-the-clock bus lanes at the expense of on-street parking.

In a letter last week to the city council explaining his veto, Frey indicated support for raised bike lanes and other components of a plan to remake Hennepin Avenue for the first time in six decades. However, he pushed back against the council's proposal for 24/7 transit lanes, arguing that it would "ignore the countless small businesses, many of them BIPOC-owned," who could stand to lose "a substantial amount of parking." 

"We can achieve our shared climate and transit goals," Frey wrote, "while preserving a reasonable number of parking spaces for community businesses by allowing for a flexible operational plan that is capable of offering transit service up to 24 hours a day." 

Anthony Gulyard Jr., a master barber at One 21 Barbershop near Hennepin and 24th Street, applauded the mayor's veto. His family-owned business has long opposed the redesign plan, since it would threaten parking spaces right in front of the shop.  

"We have a lot of people that have disabilities. We have elderly clients. We have people that really depend on parking, not just our business but all the businesses just on our little strip," Gulyard said. "They're worried about riding a bike up and down the street for three months out of the year. And this is our livelihood."

Ward 10 Council Member Aisha Chughtai, who authored the amendment for 24/7 bus lanes and parking restrictions, said in a statement after the veto that "I reject the Mayor's framing of 24/7 bus lanes as a 'loss' for small businesses." 

"This is a talking point of fear that denies data," Chughtai said. "On one of the most dangerous streets in the state for pedestrians, transit users, bikers, and drivers, investment in people-centered infrastructure is vital. I've championed this layout because it's one where all community members benefit."

Chughtai also vowed to revisit the Hennepin Avenue redesign plan at the council's next meeting on June 30. After approving the initial proposal by an 8-5 vote last week, the council would need to find just one more swing vote to override the mayor's veto by a supermajority. 

Katie Jones, a co-lead for the group Hennepin for People, is a strong supporter of the redesign plan -- including the amendment for bus lanes operating 24/7.

"It doesn't make sense to redesign this street, then to just put back the same temporary dynamic lanes," Jones said. "If we're really going to be a city based in equity, we have to have those lanes be fully dedicated to busses, so that busses can move freely through the lanes."

Jones said she wants to find common ground with businesses and likes the idea of metered parking on side streets near Hennepin, so that customers can still visit businesses by car.

"I think there really is a compromise there in finding off-Hennepin parking, and maintaining that throughput for our busses," Jones said.

At One 21 Barbershop, however, the business sees the entire redesign plan as a threat.

"Own a business on Hennepin. See what we see every single day. Them taking this parking away... it takes away our business," Anthony Gulyard Jr., said. "How are we able to survive if they take that?"

RELATED: Mayor Frey vetoes plan for all-day bus lanes on Hennepin Avenue South

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