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Business owners hope parking can be restored to plans for Hennepin Avenue redo

27December 2021

Tom Skubal and Dani Rauton, who will run the soon-to-be Uptown Café, are on board with Minneapolis’ plan to reconstruct Hennepin Avenue, but they do have a beef.

Current plans for the bustling thoroughfare’s first major makeover in 65 years include dedicated bus lanes, a protected bike lane, wider sidewalks and a center median for most of the corridor between Douglas Avenue and Lake Street to improve safety by limiting left turns.

That doesn’t leave room for on-street parking or safe space for loading and unloading, and that’s where the restaurateurs take exception.

“The whole plan is terrible,” Skubal said, who will open his new eatery at 3008 Hennepin. “The plan is geared to Metro Transit riders and bikers. They have excluded the handicapped and business. There has to be a plan that everybody could benefit from.”

Skubal said even 25 parking spaces with a 2-hour limit on one side of Hennepin would make a huge difference. He manages the Uptown Diner, just up the street from where he will open his new eatery, and said a third of customers park on the street. The same would likely be true at 3008 Hennepin if spaces existed, he said.

Plans to redo Hennepin have been in the works for more than three years, and it’s been one of the most challenging the city has undertaken, said project manager Becca Hughes.

“We know it’s controversial. There is no perfect design,” she said. “We were always clear with the public that it would be transformational. We addressed parking and said it would be reduced. Street parking is no longer a high priority.”

The plan as recommended conforms with the city’s Transportation Action Plan and Complete Streets policy to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and make corridors multi-modal. It has the blessing of the City Council. It retains parking bays where feasible.

“We feel there is sufficient parking on the corridor,” said Allan Klugman, a city traffic engineer, noting parking options exist on adjacent side streets. Drivers might have to change their habits, but “it’s something they can get used to.”

Parking aside, the project with all its complexities has been pushed back a year, to 2024, Hughes said. And it’s not set in stone yet. The city will accept another round of feedback during a virtual open house at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 13.

Until plans are finalized, Rauton said she and other business owners on Hennepin will “keep our voices loud” while trying to sway the minds of decisionmakers to see the need to keep parking. They hope to meet with Mayor Jacob Frey.

Hughes said the city incorporated previous public engagement into the plan.

Without parking, Rauton fears there will be even more delivery trucks parked on sidewalks and blocking traffic than there are now, and those from the suburbs will stay away.

“How do you ride a bike from Chanhassen to the Granada [Theater] to see a show?” she mused.

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