Monday, October 19, 2009

TV Report: Bad for Business? Cafe Prada and Senor Wong

This is a TV report on the LRT construction impact on Cafe Prada and Senor Wong in downtown St. Paul. SOB&J helped to make this report happen. -- LB

Friday, October 16, 2009

Raising Hell for Business Mitigation

LRT construction in downtown St. Paul started since July. Two businesses are losing customers, Prada Cafe and Senor Wong (see my two last posts below). AEDA asked the owner of Senor Wong yesterday at the UABA business meeting why there was no signage to direct customers to his restaurant.

Met Council was at the meeting. They said signage was put up yesterday (10/14/09). People were shocked. Why just yesterday?? The construction started in July.

Fred Gale was mad, he's from Congresswoman Betty McCollum office. He said Betty McCollum is concerned for small businesses in the Central Corridor. He couldn't believe there was no signage. Peter Bell gave his word signage would be in place to help businesses. Why didn't this happen downtown? He sounded like he was going to raise hell.

SOBJ later asked AEDA what this signage issue is about. Here's what AEDA wrote to us:

AEDA advocates for business mitigation funding as an option for businesses that will be negatively impacted by light rail transit construction. The Met Council has officially said they are against business mitigation funding. For a long time they have touted signage as one of the main strategies they would use during construction. (The other is marketing). They touted that construction signage would help businesses, pedestrians, and traffic. So it is really a mystery why they did not use adequate signage to help the businesses affected by construction for more than three months. Signage could have brought in more customers. As we know from talking with Senor Wong and Prada Cafe, they have lost up to 50% of their customers since construction started. Another issue that has not been discussed is the street closing. Senor Wong informed AEDA that Met Council told them traffic would be allowed through Fourth Street during construction. But as you can see if you go downtown, the whole street is closed off. Given these inconsistent and inadequate mitigation measures, we question the Met Council's mitigation plan. We would like to see that such a plan be available for the public and allowed for public input. If the construction does not complete on time before Winter, Senor Wong and Prada Café may not be able to weather through construction. Looking into the future, we hope that the Met Council will learn valuable lessons from Fourth Street and apply them to University Avenue, where inadequate mitigation measures would not affect just a handful of businesses, but thousands.
-- Asian Economic Development Association

Amen. All I have to say is, many businesses on University Avenue will not last three months like Senor Wong and Prada Cafe. it would be a nightmare, but don't be surprised if University Avenue is emptied of businesses after construction is down.

LRT Construction Impacts 2

Senor Wong restaurant invited me downtown St. Paul to see what is happening to their restaurant. The streets were closed for LRT construction and they are losing customers. I asked them to speak to University Ave businesses. Yesterday one of the owners came and spoke to University Avenue businesses at the UABA meeting.

Everyone was surprised at how badly Senor Wong is doing because of the construction. The owner said he stopped talking to Met Council because there's nothing they can do to help him. He's focused on running his business and don't have time. He said if the construction doesn't finish on time he will probably go out of business.

AEDA took these pictures of the construction:

When we went downtown to check out the construction we also went to Prada's Cafe. The owner wasn't there, but he wrote this letter to AEDA to share with everybody:

October 14, 2009

Prada’s Food Service LLC

111 Kellogg Blvd. Suite # 140

Saint Paul Mn., 55101

University Avenue business owners:

My name is Carlos Prada and I’m the owner of Prada’s Café in downtown St. Paul; we opened for business in April 20th this year.

When we opened we had many challenges like to getting organized, and we learned so much about the business. But we kept trying and did what we had to do to get this business ahead.

Everything was going well until light rail construction started some time in July. I knew the light rail was supposed to be built in the area but I did not know exactly where. If I had been told that the light rail will be right outside of the property where the café is I probably wouldn’t buy it.

Any way just want to share with you that the sales of my business went down between 40% to 50% since this project started. It’s unfortunate because when it’s completed it’s going to be great and supposed to help everybody as a transportation method, and hopefully help to generate more business opportunities.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience with you.

I think it’s great that you guys are organized and good luck to you all.


Carlos Prada

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LRT Construction Impacts Downtown Businesses

The Met Council started the Central Corrdor light rail construction in downtown St. Paul. They are digging up the utilities to prepare for the LRT. Senor Wong restaurant in downtown invited SOBJ and AEDA (our biggest supporter) to see the impact on their business. We spent three hours at the construction site and talking to Senor Wong. They are located at 4th St and Robert. The streets are closed, for three months now. No parking on the street at all. They said they are lucky there's a parking ramp one block away or they be out of business by now. Everything is blocked off. The big construction machines digging everyday. You can't cross anywhere at 4th and Robert to get to Senor Wong. You can only get to Senor Wong if you go to Robert & Kellogg or 4th & Minnesota and walk one block to Senor Wong's door. The skyway is open so that's another way

The owners are angry. Their customers are not coming like they used to. They said probably up to 40% are staying away since construction started. We told them that's not surprising for us. we learned that from other cities. We are trying to do what we can to prepare the small businesses on University Avenue. They said Met Council or the city can't or won't do anything to help them. We asked Senor Wong to tell University Ave businesses about how they are impacted it would help them prepare for construction.

These pictures were taken by AEDA's director:

You can see more pictures here: